Psychotherapy is a topic that is nowadays very talked about publicly. Many public figures have reported attending therapy. Attending therapy is no longer embarrassing but is part of the health care and growth of a self-caring person.
The increasing prevalence of attending psychotherapy brings challenges to service providers, which are far too few in relation to demand. In this blog, for my part, I aspire to meet this challenge by writing about EMDR therapy, which is one of the most studied forms of psychotherapy today and where the effectiveness and goals of treatment can already be achieved with very few visits. In my future writings, I will be covering the use of eye movement therapy in different contexts, and I have always received permission from my client for all these writings. I always write about my client in such a way that he or she is not recognizable from my writing. My purpose in writing this blog is to raise awareness of this form of therapy, so that more and more people in need of psychological help could find a quick and effective treatment for themselves and in that way get over the difficulties and focus on living a good life. As part of the human body, the mind can recover from adversity quickly as can any other part of the human body. Often, long-term psychotherapy is not required for recovery.
The problem or symptoms of a client attending psychotherapy often gets physical, interactive, and social forms in addition to psychic ones. Psychotherapy can be defined as a structured and professional, interactive process aimed at increasing client’s well-being. Its goal is also to alleviate and eliminate a mental problem or disorder, promote mental growth and development and enhance mental capacity.[i] The duration and frequency of the process, as well as the theories of psychology that underlie its methods, e.g., from the prevalence of human mental disorders, vary from one form of therapy to another. Underlying eye movement therapy is a model where a person’s current problems are the result of negative experiences from the past that have been stored in a person’s memory networks in an impractical way.[ii] According to the model, these memories are stored in the brain so that the emotions and bodily sensations related to them are part of the engram, and this engram is not reasonably integrated into existing memory networks that would help a person adapt to a difficult situation. Because of this, a person who has been sexually abused, for example, may experience severe physical anxiety as he or she recalls the incident, and feel guilt over what happened, even if it would be difficult for an outsider to understand such an experience using reason. Or a person who has experienced workplace bullying might find going to work impossible in their anxious state, as well as feel worthless and unfit as a person, even if there were no reason for it.
Eye movement therapy focuses on processing memories that disturb a person and memory-related cognitions (self-related beliefs and thoughts), as well as the processing of emotions and bodily sensations, at the same time when the client is given a mutual, i.e., bilateral stimulus that promotes the processing of information. As EMDR therapists, we restart information processing in the client’s brain by activating the memory selected for handling in the client’s working memory through visualization, and we produce distraction to that memory substance with an extra stimulus (usually a series of eye movements) time after time. This causes the memory substance to begin to structure in the human brain during the treatment in a manner that promotes his or her adaptation. Typically, one therapy session lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
Successful eye movement therapy has both neurobiological and psychological effects and it transforms the memory experienced as distressing and disturbing into neutral on an emotional level, while at the same time binding a positive belief about themselves as a person into it. Thus, for example, the memory associated with workplace bullying becomes neutral during a successful treatment (the client often verbalizes it as: “it’s further away”, “I can’t catch it”, “it feels irrelevant”). Negative self-belief related to the client’s memory is changed to positive during treatment (e.g., “I am good”, “I am good enough”).
Occasionally, eye movement therapy is criticized, especially for its background theory, as a hard-to-falsify pseudoscience. Such criticism represents perceptions from 20 years ago, when there was still very little experimental research in psychotherapy.
Since then, especially in the Netherlands, the experimental psychotherapy research directed to EMDR within the framework of the so-called the working memory hypothesis has resulted in widespread recognition of the effectiveness of EMDR. Today, according to the World Health Organization, EMDR therapy is recommended for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, its range of use is considerably wider.
Welcome to follow my marvelous work and my totally lovely experiences in this field! Questions and comments are welcome, I will try to answer them quickly within my schedule.
[ii] Shapiro F. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: basic principles, protocols and procedures. New York: Guilford Press 2018.