The use of both medication management and EMDR or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing has been about 95% successful for treating post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD in my Scottsdale practice. I typically handle the medication management while one of my colleagues conducts the EMDR. The chemistry behind PTSD may contribute to the inability to relinquish traumatic memories that are responsible for the anxiety. This new research into the levels of dynorphins and PTSD may lead to more effective medications for treating PTSD and other anxiety disorders as well as OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder.
EMDR for PTSD Treatment is Gaining Much Acceptance
EMDR is similar to other therapies such as brainspotting and hypnosis, both of which are gaining acceptance in mainstream psychiatry and psychology for treating PTSD. The American Psychiatric Association – APA has noted that EMDR is effective for treating symptoms of acute and chronic PTSD. According to the APA, EMDR may be particularly useful for people who have trouble talking about the traumatic events they’ve experienced. The APA guidelines note that other research is needed to determine if the improvements from EMDR can be sustained over time. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have jointly issued clinical practice guidelines as well. These guidelines strongly recommended EDMR for the treatment of PTSD in both military and civilian personnel.
There have been observable changes in brain scans of patients before and after several sessions of EMDR. Some even claim that while the success rates for PTSD combined with cognitive behavioral therapy may be 80%, EMDR can accomplish the same success rates in half the time as other treatments. More than 20,000 practitioners have been trained to use EMDR since psychologist Francine Shapiro developed the technique in 1989. Interestingly, while walking through the woods one day, Shapiro happened to notice that her own negative emotions lessened as her eyes darted from side to side. After much deliberation she began to use this in her practice and found the same positive effect in her patients. Read about the neurophysiological components of EMDR.
EMDR does not rely on talk therapy but rather uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. These eye movements dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events. They will weaken the effect of the negative emotions.
How Does EMDR Work in PTSD Treatment
During an EMDR treatment session which can last up to 90 minutes your therapist will move his or her fingers back and forth in front of your face and ask you to follow these hand motions with your eyes. At the same time, the therapist will have you recall a disturbing event. This will include the emotions and body sensations that go along with it. Gradually the therapist will guide you to shift your thoughts to more pleasant ones. Some therapists use alternatives to finger movements, such as hand or toe tapping or musical tones. Before and after each EMDR treatment, your therapist will ask you to rate your level of distress. The hope is that your disturbing memories will become less disabling.
Although most research into EMDR has been geared towards its use in people with PTSD, EMDR may also be used to treat many other issues such as phobias, panic attacks, addictions, OCD, and other anxiety related issues. Read more on PTSD Treatment and EMDR. If you are seeking an experienced Scottsdale psychiatrist, please contact me to schedule an appointment.