Meg Kapil is a certified EMDR Therapist
Certified Clinical Trauma Professional Level 2
Trained in Flash Technique and Deep Brain Reorienting (DBR)
EMDR is an evidence-based therapeutic protocol that stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In EMDR the therapist assists the client to hold a distressing memory in mind along with associated emotions and a negative cognition. Bilateral stimulation such as eye moments are used to decrease how vivid and distressing the memory is. This process allows the client to process these memories that have previously been distressing and have kept the person stuck, dysregulated, and distressed.
The following definition is from EMDRIA: EMDR is an evidence-based psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, successful outcomes are well-documented in the literature for EMDR treatment of other psychiatric disorders, mental health problems, and somatic symptoms. The model on which EMDR is based, Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), posits that much of psychopathology is due to the maladaptive encoding of and/or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences. This impairs the client’s ability to integrate these experiences in an adaptive manner. The eight- phase, three-pronged process of EMDR facilitates the resumption of normal information processing and integration. This treatment approach, which targets past experience, current triggers, and future potential challenges, results in the alleviation of presenting symptoms, a decrease or elimination of distress from the disturbing memory, improved view of the self, relief from bodily disturbance, and resolution of present and future anticipated triggers.
EMDR aims to resolve distressing images, emotions, and thoughts through desensitization and transforms them into a more adaptive memory or experience without the reactive and distressing charge. New associations are formed to more adaptive memory networks which further supports resolution. EMDR addresses the varied aspects of traumatic memories including sensory information such as sights, sounds, thougths, feelings, and body sensations that are ‘stuck’ and not properly filed which lets them be activated or ‘triggered’ unexpectedly. EMDR takes intrusive memories and sensations and after processing, files them in a more adaptive way that diminishes or removes the distressing emotional qualities.
EMDR is also effective for a wide range of presenting challenges including present or past traumatic experiences, developmental or relational trauma such as abuse and neglect, anxiety, phobias, depression, OCD, and other mental health concerns or adverse life events.
At various points in the 8-stage protocol below, the therapist uses bi-lateral stimulation to desensitize the distressing experience. The most common type of bi-lateral stimulation are hand movements. The therapist moves their hand back and forth in a lateral motion at arms length from the client. The client is asked to follow the movement of the hand for about a minute. Upon stopping, the client will be invited to share whatever pops into their mind, whether an image, sensation, or thought. Instead of eye movements, the therapist could use alternating light tapping on the client's knees with permission, particularly if the trauma occurred at a young age or if the client has difficulties with their eyes.
EMDR follows an 8-phase protocol, and targets past experiences, current triggers, and possible future triggers. During treatment, we seek to specifically desensitize the first, worst, most recent, and future targets of a given problem area by using a float-back technique. The following provides a brief overview of the 8-phase protocol used in EMDR therapy:
1. History taking & treatment planning
2. Preparation: safety & stabilization skills
3. Assessment: develop EMDR targets
4. Desensitization: reduce distressing images, emotions, & sensations
5. Installation: increase positive belief of self in relation to target
6. Body Scan: address lingering body sensation
7. Closure: use grounding skills at the end of each session
8. Re-evaluation: check on gains from previous session