Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new yet well-researched tool for treating psychological trauma. Psychological trauma is any experience that causes a person to feel highly overwhelmed and helpless. Many clients enter counseling seeking relief from traumatic experiences. What is experienced as traumatic differs from person to person and is entirely up to the individual to determine. Common traumatic experiences include military combat, violent crimes, natural disasters, accidents, loss, and difficult childhoods and relationships. Psychological trauma can lead to stress-related health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, headaches, heart problems, back pain, and gastrointestinal problems if left untreated.
EMDR offers hope for those suffering from psychological trauma and the related health conditions. The goal of EMDR is to lessen the pain of traumatic memories and to develop better coping mechanisms. EMDR is unlike traditional talk-therapy in that it is a highly structured method in which the client is in control. In EMDR, the client uses a dual attention stimulus, such as alternating tones in headphones or vibrations in handheld buzzers to attend to traumatic material in brief intervals with the counselor's guidance. The bilateral stimulation assists the client in processing or integrating the traumatic material, which is stored differently than normal memories. Once the memory is integrated, new meaning is attached to it and the client's body and mind are able to return to normal functioning.
As part of treatment, the counselor will ask about the client's history, help the client develop self-soothing skills, and assist the client in identifying a list of distressing experiences to target. People with PTSD, as well as people with everyday issues, can benefit from EMDR. Whatever is driving current difficulties in a person's life can be targeted. It is recommended that clients meet weekly while undergoing trauma work such as EMDR. The precise length of treatment will depend on the client's unique needs and goals.
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