Post-traumatic stress is one of those disorders that significantly affects quality of life. To try to combat it, a therapy is now widely popular: EMDR. Find out more about this therapy for reprocessing traumatic memories.
What is EMDR?
EMDR (acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapeutic approach developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist. It is based on the belief that unresolved trauma is the cause of many negative symptoms , and that these symptoms result from a blockage of information in the information processing system. The main objective of this therapy is therefore to treat the consequences linked to psychological trauma . These traumatic memories can thus be processed, sometimes even years after they occurred. A neuroemotional healing mechanism, traumatic memory is reprocessed through eye movements. This psychotherapy thus allows natural and non-drug management of these painful memories. It is mainly indicated in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. (1)
What is post-traumatic stress?
This is an anxiety disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing an extremely traumatic event. It causes traumatic after-effects responsible for numerous symptoms. Among the main ones, we note: - Physical manifestations such as sweating, tachycardia, pallor... - Regular reliving of this memory: nightmares, flashbacks, thoughts... The opposite is also possible with amnesia traumatic . - Emotional manifestations: state of permanent anxiety and stress, hypervigilance, fear, etc. - These symptoms can be reactivated by any daily event. Altering the quality of life, they impose themselves in an unpredictable, painful and involuntary manner. (2)
What are other indications for EMDR?
In addition to post-traumatic stress, EMDR can be particularly useful in the treatment of other pathologies. This is particularly the case for phobias as well as irrational fears . Reprocessing the memories associated with these fears and reintegrating them in a more appropriate way can indeed bring real positive results. EMDR can also be used as a complementary treatment for generalized anxiety disorders and depression . It can indeed help reduce symptoms while promoting better emotional balance. However, it is important to note that the interest and potential benefits must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Has this treatment been scientifically proven?
This therapy, far from being experimental, has been recognized and approved as part of the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder by several major authorities. This is particularly the case of the WHO (3), INSERM, and HAS. EMDR has also been the subject of much scientific research over time. The conclusions of this research also tend to support its effectiveness. For example, a meta-analysis carried out in 2013 concluded that EMDR helped reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress. (4)
How does EMDR treatment work?
Before the start of the sessions, it is essential to carry out preliminary interviews (three on average). These interviews have several objectives: validate the therapeutic indication, define the objectives, establish a relationship of trust with the practitioner... It is a time for discussion where the therapist can respond to concerns and explain the process in detail. 'EMDR. Then come the EMDR sessions, in other words the reprocessing of traumatic memories. To do this, the patient is invited to focus on his memory and everything that accompanies it: emotions, sensations, thoughts , etc. This is an exposure through the imagination. At the same time, he must follow the movements of the therapist's fingers. Relating to a certain spontaneity, the patient must then welcome everything that comes to him. He is in fact invited to verbalize everything he feels between each series of stimulations. By also soliciting the unconscious, the process of free association of ideas then takes place. The series continues until the traumatic memory is no longer a source of disturbance. Conversely, the treatment ends with the establishment of positive thinking associated with good bodily sensations. It is possible to practice these sessions on children. However, while traditional sessions last 60 to 90 minutes, those for children will be shorter. Several sessions are sometimes necessary to process a single memory.
LimitsIt would be wrong to think that EMDR therapy alone is the solution. Indeed, this treatment should rather be considered as complementary to other medicinal and therapeutic approaches. In addition, to practice this therapy, the patient must immerse themselves in their traumatic memories. A method often experienced as trying and painful. This therapy has therefore well and truly proven itself in the treatment of patients suffering from post-traumatic stress. However, scientific research continues, particularly in search of other therapeutic indications. And, even if it is still too early to say that EMDR would make it possible to treat other psychiatric disorders, it seems undeniable that this treatment has not yet revealed all its secrets.
- (1) EMDR France. EMDR therapy https://www.emdr-france.org/lemdr-cest-quoi/la-therapie-emdr/
- (2) Drug Treatment Center (United States). Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (United States). (2014). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Exhibit 1.3-4, DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/box/part1_ch3.box16/
- (3) World Health Organization. (August 6, 2013). WHO publishes advice on mental health care after trauma. https://www.who.int/news/item/06-08-2013-who-releases-guidance-on-mental-health-care-after-trauma
- (4) Bisson JI, Roberts NP, Andrew M, Cooper R, Lewis C. (December 13, 2013). Psychological therapies for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults . Cochrane Database System Rev. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24338345/