How does EMDR Therapy work?
How EMDR works is something that is still a hypothesis. However, the theories that have greater acceptance are:
The first one was by Van den Hout et al., 2011. That saccadic eye movements interfere with how working memory processes information. The benefits occur due to the limited capacity of working memory when it is simultaneously focused on Dual Attention (eye movements and negative memory). Because of this, the memory becomes less vivid and loses its emotional charge.
The second one from Andrade, 1992; Lipke, 1999 Stickgold, 2002, explains how information is processed when sleeping in the R.E.M sleep phase. Researchers have shown that saccadic eye movements induce a relaxation response that psychophysiologically decreases arousal. The hypothesis is that the relaxation response is a reaction to changes in the environment, part of an orientation response that is elicited by changes in attention caused by repeated bilateral stimulation. (Shapiro, 2012. The New York Times) There are different models for conceptualizing the role of orientating response. 1. Cognitive information processing. 2. Neurobiological 3. Behavioral. (EMDR Institute 2022)
The EMDR model has focused since 1987 on the treatment of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder related to past traumatic events, and the treatment of different types of trauma, including Complex Trauma, a lesser-known term; which is associated with situations of unspecified extreme stress continued over time, such as incest, sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment in childhood.
And so, with the research, the way was opened to work with:
- Depression and Suicidal Ideation
- Postpartum depression
- Prenatal or postnatal grief
- Panic attacks
- Chronic pain
- Phantom limb pain
- Attachment disorder or relationship problems
- Self-harm and suicidal behavior
- Schizophrenia, Psychosis
- Dissociation, depersonalization, derealization
- Sleep disorders
- Personality disorders
- Developmental disorders
Among many other psychosocial problems like:
- Post-surgery recovery
- Marital or interpersonal relationship problems
- Sexual desire problems
- Memory problems
- Difficult behaviors
- Sexual violence
- Traffic accidents
- Workplace Harassment
Several protocols have been developed to work with specific health problems (not only mental health). There are group protocols that can be used both in therapy groups and in organizations, as well as other protocols that work on the problems of the present and those of the (imagined) future. Its use will vary depending on the reason for consultation or what the person needs.