It has been demonstrated that the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can aid people in overcoming the effects of trauma, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
One of the reasons the therapy has been so effective is the extensive uniform protocol. The past, present, and future—the three “prongs” of EMDR treatment—are each carefully addressed by the process.
This post will examine how EMDR’s thorough standard procedure addresses every aspect of treatment to provide long-lasting outcomes for individuals seeking help.
The past prong of EMDR’s comprehensive standard protocol is designed to help individuals process and resolve negative experiences and memories from their past. Through a series of Dual Awareness Stimulation (DAS) sessions, the individual is guided to revisit traumatic or distressing experiences, allowing them to reprocess the experience and release the negative emotions associated with it.
During the past prong, the therapist works with the individual to identify negative beliefs or self-talk that developed as a result of the traumatic experience. Through reprocessing, the individual is encouraged to replace these negative beliefs with more positive and empowering ones.
This approach helps individuals gain perspective and closure, freeing them from the emotional weight of their past experiences. Here are some common negative beliefs or self-talk that may develop as a result of trauma:
- “I am not safe”: Individuals may feel that the world is a dangerous place and that they are not safe in their environment.
- “I am not worthy”: Individuals may feel that they are not worthy of love, respect, or happiness as a result of their trauma.
- “I am to blame”: Individuals may blame themselves for the traumatic experience or feel guilty for what happened.
- “I am powerless”: Individuals may feel that they have no control over their lives or their environment as a result of the trauma.
- “I am damaged”: Individuals may feel that the trauma has left them permanently damaged or broken.
- “I am alone”: Individuals may feel isolated and disconnected from others as a result of their trauma.
- “I am weak”: Individuals may feel that they are weak or unable to cope with the effects of the trauma.
These negative beliefs or self-talk can be deeply ingrained and can impact an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors long after the traumatic event has occurred. EMDR therapy can help individuals identify and challenge these negative beliefs, and develop more positive and adaptive beliefs that support their healing and growth.
By working with a trained EMDR therapist, individuals can learn to overcome the negative effects of trauma and develop a more positive and hopeful outlook on their lives.
The Present Problems
The present prong of EMDR’s comprehensive protocol is designed to help individuals develop healthy coping strategies for the present. This prong focuses on addressing current symptoms and stressors that the individual is experiencing as a result of their past trauma.
Some common symptoms and stressors that individuals may experience include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks: Individuals may experience feelings of anxiety or panic in response to reminders of their trauma or in situations that feel unsafe.
- Depression: Individuals may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
- Hypervigilance: Individuals may feel constantly on guard and alert for potential danger, leading to difficulty sleeping, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
- Avoidance: Individuals may avoid situations, people, or places that remind them of their trauma, leading to isolation and social withdrawal.
- Physical symptoms: Individuals may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension as a result of their trauma.
- Substance misuse: Individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their trauma.
- Relationship problems: Individuals may have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships as a result of their trauma.
The present prong of the protocol includes teaching the individual coping skills and grounding techniques to manage distressing emotions or situations. These skills can be used outside of therapy sessions and can be a helpful tool in managing stress in day-to-day life.
While EMDR therapy does not focus on teaching coping skills, the following list can help individuals develop new coping strategies as they work through their trauma. Here are some examples of coping skills that may be developed or strengthened through EMDR therapy:
- Self-soothing techniques: EMDR therapy can help individuals to develop self-soothing techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to help manage feelings of anxiety or distress.
- Mindfulness: EMDR therapy can also help individuals to develop mindfulness skills, which involve staying present in the moment and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can help individuals to manage symptoms such as anxiety or hypervigilance.
- Emotional regulation: EMDR therapy can help individuals to regulate their emotions by helping them to identify and understand their feelings, as well as developing strategies to manage intense emotions.
- Interpersonal skills: EMDR therapy can also help individuals to improve their interpersonal skills, such as communication, assertiveness, and boundary-setting. This can help individuals to build stronger relationships and cope with the effects of trauma on their relationships.
- Problem-solving: EMDR therapy can help individuals to develop problem-solving skills to help them manage stressors and cope with the effects of trauma on their daily lives.
The future prong of EMDR’s comprehensive standard protocol is designed to help individuals develop a positive outlook for the future. Through the process of reprocessing past traumas and developing healthy coping strategies, individuals can begin to envision a future that is free from the negative effects of their past trauma.
The future prong of the protocol involves setting goals for the future, such as personal growth, improved relationships, and career success. The therapist works with the individual to develop a plan for achieving these goals and supports them in their journey towards a brighter future. Here are some examples:
- Personal growth: Through trauma therapy, individuals can develop a better understanding of themselves and their past experiences. They may develop a greater sense of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. They may also learn new coping skills, develop greater resilience, and experience a greater sense of control over their lives.
- Improved relationships: Trauma therapy can help individuals improve their relationships with others by addressing the ways in which their past trauma may have impacted their ability to connect with others. They may learn to communicate more effectively, set healthy boundaries, and build stronger, more supportive relationships.
- Career success: Trauma therapy can also help individuals achieve greater success in their careers by helping them to manage the symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety or depression, that may have held them back in the past. They may also develop greater confidence, assertiveness, and problem-solving skills that can help them succeed in their chosen field.
For example, an individual who has experienced trauma and struggled with anxiety and low self-esteem may find that, after trauma therapy, they are able to pursue their dream job with greater confidence and success.
They may also find that they are able to build stronger relationships with their colleagues and feel more fulfilled in their work. It is important to note that the specific benefits of trauma therapy will depend on the individual’s unique experiences and goals.
Working with a trained EMDR therapist can help individuals develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and helps them achieve their desired outcomes.
EMDR’s comprehensive standard protocol is a powerful tool for addressing trauma and other mental health issues. By addressing all three prongs of treatment – the past, present, and future – individuals can experience lasting results that lead to an overwhelming improved quality of life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of trauma, anxiety, or other mental health issues, EMDR therapy may be an effective treatment option to consider.
If you are struggling with trauma and find that negative beliefs and emotions are holding you back from living your best life, EMDR therapy may be able to help. By addressing past traumas and the negative beliefs and emotions associated with them, EMDR therapy can help you develop a greater sense of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-esteem.
Don’t let the effects of trauma control your life any longer. Contact our licensed and highly skilled EMDR therapist today to learn more about how this therapy can help you on your journey to healing and recovery.