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Attachment and Trauma

EMDR therapy, what is it? EMDR: how it works and side effects

Published: 3 June 2022

EMDR therapy, what EMDR is, how it works and side effects

What is EMDR

L'EMDRacronym for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessingor, desensitisation and reprocessing through eye movements, is a therapeutic approach used for the treatment of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

When you suffer a psychological trauma or one experiences particularly stressful events, the individual is not always able to process the necessary information (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations), which remain 'trapped', reoccurring even after some time, as if the person were still experiencing the triggering event.

The EMDR therapy focuses on the re-enactment of the traumatic experience and aims to have the memory adequately reprocessed, resulting in a reduction of symptoms.

EMDR: how it works

As highlighted by the Dr. Roger M. Solomon, who will speak by videoconference at the Congress "Attachment and Trauma" organised by ISC Training Dashboard in Rome, EMDR therapy is a method divided into eight phases and involves the processing of past memories at the origin of the problems manifested in the present.

Through the EMDR technique, the therapist performs a specific stimulation involving both cerebral hemispheres: this can be done with alternating eye movements or right/left tactile stimulation, without intervening directly so as not to interrupt the processing.

From a clinical point of view, after one or more sessions of EMDR the patient no longer presents the typical symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Memories related to the traumatic event lose their negative emotional charge, emotions are perceived less intensely and physical sensations are lessened.

Another significant change is that the patient is better able to distinguish real dangers from imaginary ones conditioned by anxiety.

With which disorders is EMDR used

Therapy EMDR is used for the treatment of symptoms related to psychological traumas of various kinds and different emotional impact. When we speak of 'trauma', in fact, we must make a distinction between those linked to particularly intense events and those of lesser importance. To the latter belong, for example, relational traumas caused by attachment figures who do not fully meet the emotional needs of the child. To the first group, on the other hand, belong:

  • Mourning;
  • Trauma from natural disasters;
  • Traffic accident injuries;
  • Abuse trauma;
  • Trauma as a result of violence;
  • Lives of humiliation;
  • Childhood trauma.

The EMDR therapy has demonstrated clear efficacy in the treatment of the following disorders in particular:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
  • Acute stress disorder;
  • Complex post-traumatic disorder;
  • Dissociative disorders;
  • Adaptation disorders;
  • Attachment-related disorders.

EMDR is also used a lot in therapy with children, given their inability to cognitively process memories.

EMDR: side effects

Being a particularly intense type of therapy, it can happen that following a session the patient cries or feels very tired. This depends on the intensity of the emotional, cognitive and physical processing.

If the trauma has not been fully processed during the session, it is possible that in the following hours the patient may relive the memory or the unpleasant feelings associated with it.

Should the patient experience any of these side effects after the EMDR session, the therapist may consider anticipating the next session if necessary.

EMDR method

In 2003, the Italian Ministry of Health also approved the use of EMDR in the treatment of disorders related to traumatic events; while in 2013, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised EMDR as an effective treatment for psychological trauma and associated disorders.

It will be possible to deepen the topic together with the Dr. Roger M. Solomon, an international expert in the EMDR method, who will speak via videoconference at the Congress "Attachment and Trauma: Effective Clinical Interventions and Research"organised by ISC Training Dashboard to be held by Friday 30 September to Sunday 2 October 2022, from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Auditorium Antonianum in Rome.

Click here for more details on the digital event

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