EMDR therapy is a comprehensive therapy developed over 30 years ago by Francine Shapiro, PhD. It has been proven to be an effective and efficient form of therapy by more that 30 high quality research studies. It is based upon the theory of Adaptive Information Processing, which posits the natural ability of the brain to move toward a state of mental health when the brain is given a supportive environment in which to function. When negative experiences occur without this support, erroneous interpretations of one’s responsibility for the experience, one’s sense of safety, and one’s sense of agency, choice, or control over responses to the experience, can emerge that can in turn, have a lasting impact in the form of psychological and behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, depression, psychological numbness, detachment, anger, avoidance of situations that are reminiscent of the disturbing event, substance abuse and addiction, sleep disturbance, and relationship problems.
EMDR therapy is an eight phase, three pronged approach to overcoming disturbing memories of unprocessed negative experiences, that have been dysfunctionally stored in the brain’s memory networks. The memories are processed with the use of a dual focus—attention to the memory while simultaneously moving eyes back and forth tracking an external stimulus. The eye movements mimic the REM sleep stage in which the brain actively sorts through and reorganizes memories every night during sleep. The brain selects which memories to store in long term memory, short term memory, or to discard as no longer needed. In the same way, it is believed that the tracking of eye movements during EMDR therapy stimulates the brain to process all aspects of the memory—thoughts, beliefs, feelings, body sensations, and behaviors as well as any related or associated memories, and move the memory to a new, more functional storage place. This happens spontaneously, with clients often amazed at the results: For example, “I can’t find the words to talk about what happened to me” to gaining verbal control through a cohesive narrative of what actually did happen, with affect processed, and negative beliefs transformed. The felt relief of this experience is in the reduction of symptoms that brought the client to treatment in the first place.
The three pronged approach involves identifying and processing seminal past memories, then focusing EMDR therapy on present concerns, and finally using EMDR to move toward an empowered future. Within the eight phases and the three pronged approach, memories are processed, negative beliefs are replaced with adaptive beliefs, and resilience is enhanced.
EMDR therapy is a collaborative and cooperative process in which therapist and client play important roles in goal achievement. It is not hypnosis, because the client maintains present awareness. The client does not “relive” the negative memory because of the dual focus required. For more information, please visit www.EMDR.com. I also recommend the book, “Getting Past Your Past”, written by Francine Shapiro, PhD.
Couples Therapy is designed to engage and empower the couple to greater understanding and acceptance of each other, while establishing common goals to work on within the partnership. Communication skills, constructive conflict management, and negotiation skills are stressed. Negative behaviors that are highly predictive of relationship failure are also identified, along with positive behaviors that are reparative.
Essential relationship building skills are practiced in each session. Each member of the couple is given an opportunity to express his or her view of the strengths of the relationship, and also their complaints within the relationship. Goals are set as part of couple’s therapy, and homework exercises are given to extend treatment beyond the session.
General Psychotherapy is an inclusive term which encompasses many types of therapies used to help change a person’s thoughts, behavior, outlook, and attitude. Psychotherapy has developed over the past thirty years, to a more goal focused, time limited, and research based approach to treatment. These therapies are often highly collaborative, respectful of present strengths, and skill focused. The therapist’s assumption is that the client has already done everything he or she knows to do, has gotten stuck, and is looking for a safe place to express their concerns, and access ideas on what their next steps might be. General psychotherapy is able to offer this experience.