HBH Treatment & Therapies

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Treatment, Techniques, and Benefits

Learn about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), including the benefits and use of EMDR to treat PTSD and acute stress disorder in Western MA and the Greater Boston area.

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When someone experiences an intense traumatic event, they will likely suffer from unpleasant and dysfunctional stress following the event.

While cognitive-behavioral therapy can help patients understand and reform their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that resulted from the traumatic event, eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) takes a different approach.

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy for trauma resolution which focuses directly on the patient’s memory of the event, and is intended to change the way the memory is stored in the patient’s brain. Successful EMDR therapy allows the patient to bring the traumatic memory to mind without experiencing distress.

Our team of trained therapists at HBH Therapy in our offices around Western MA and Eastern MA are here to help patients heal from traumatic events using EMDR therapy.

To learn more about what EMDR therapy is, what treatment involves, and who can benefit from EMDR therapy, please read on.

What is EMDR?

“EMDR is a form of psychotherapy used to treat PTSD and acute stress disorder. The use of bilateral eye movements helps patients heal from their unprocessed memory of a traumatic event.”

-Jordan Castonguay, LMHC and EMDR Therapist at HBH

During EMDR therapy sessions patients are encouraged to call the traumatic memory to mind, while simultaneously experiencing bilateral eye movements. The bilateral eye movements facilitate information processing and integration which help the patient process their traumatic memory.

How does EMDR help patients recover from a traumatic event?

“When someone experiences trauma, their memory of the event isn’t fully processed into their long term memory. The emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and physical sensations from the event stay stuck in their short term memory, which can lead to the development of PTSD and other stress disorders.”

-Jordan Castonguay, LMHC and EMDR Therapist at HBH

Who Can Benefit From EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy can help children and adults of all ages recover from the following challenges:

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
  • Chronic illness and medical issues
  • Depression and bipolar disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Sexual assualt
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Violence and abuse
  • PTSD and other stress-related issues
  • Personality disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Pain

How Long Does EMDR Therapy Last?

An EMDR session will typically last between 60-90 minutes, depending on the length of treatment and the amount of trauma the patient has endured.

“I’ll do months of talk therapy with the patient before starting the EMDR process. I want to make sure the patient can manage their distressing symptoms before getting into treatment.”

-Jordan Castonguay, LMHC and EMDR Therapist at HBH

What Does an EMDR Therapy Session Involve?

EMDR Therapy involves an eight-phase treatment method. The phases are broken up into history taking, client preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and evaluating the progress of treatment.

“The overall goal of EMDR therapy is to help the patient process and make new insights about the traumatic event, without experiencing emotional distress.”

-Jordan Castonguay, LMHC and EMDR Therapist at HBH

The eight-phase treatment method involves:

  1. History taking: The client and therapist work together to get a full history for the client and identify a particular memory to target, as well as current triggers and future goals.
  2. Client preparation: The therapist prepares the client for treatment by explaining what treatment will involve, and how treatment will help the client safely process their memories.
  3. Assessment: The therapist asks the client to identify and assess the memory on a cognitive, affective, behavioral, and physiological level. Rapid Eye Movement, or REM action, helps the client re-process their traumatic memory.
  4. Desensitization: The client is asked to focus on the memory and hold it in mind while using their eyes to track the therapist’s hands as they move back and forth across the client’s field of vision. The client then reports whatever new thoughts have emerged. The process continues until the memory is no longer distressing to the client.
  5. Installation: Installation strengthens the preferred positive cognition.
  6. Body scan: Clients are asked to observe their physical response while thinking about the traumatic event and the positive cognition, and identify any leftover distress.
  7. Closure: Closure is used to end the session. If the memory was not fully processed in the session, the therapist will offer the client specific instructions and techniques.
  8. Re-evaluation: The therapist evaluates the client’s current psychological state and what affect the treatment has had. Additional memories might be targeted or continued focus on the previous memory might be necessary.

“During EMDR therapy, I’ll use the subjective units of distress scale (SUDS) to measure the patient’s level of distress before and after the memory processing. If the patient reports a zero they’re able to think about the memory without experiencing distress; we’ve successfully worked through the memory. “

-Jordan Castonguay, LMHC and EMDR Therapist at HBH

The take-away:

EMDR therapy is a well-established and effective type of psychotherapy used to relieve psychological distress. If you would like to learn more about EMDR therapy and if it is the right treatment method for you or your loved one, please contact Handel Behavioral Health at (413) 343-4357.

Our trained mental health professionals at Amherst, Wilbraham, West Springfield, Franklin, and across Massachusetts will answer all of your questions and concerns, and guide you along the path of healing.

Contact us today at (413) 343-4357 or request an appointment online.

About The Author

Nettie Hoagland Headshot

Nettie Hoagland is a writer with experience in local news reporting and nonprofit communications and community development. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from Saint Michael’s College. Nettie is a believer in the healing power of the arts to create connection and community. She is passionate about using writing and storytelling as an instrument for personal and social growth in the field of mental health. Nettie is endlessly curious about all things mental and behavioral health.

Jordan Castonguay Headshot

Jordan received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Springfield College and her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Bay Path University. Her clinical background is in community mental health supporting clients with a variety of mental health and substance use disorders. More About Author →