EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Retrieved information: https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
Once we have established whether this is the appropriate treatment for you, we use time to prepare you with resources helping you to regulate discomfort, to be able to anchor and ground yourself, as well as to create a sense of calm. This may take some time and sessions before we begin with desensitising disturbances.
YES. EMDR can be conducted online/remotely. It would be exactly the same process. For this I will also move my fingers for you to follow (once we get to this stage). Depending on your IT resources, I may also use some digital support, i.e., following a dot on my shared screen (rather than my fingers).
EMDR applications, i.e.:
The Interplay between Mental Health Concerns, Complex Trauma, PTSD, and Chronic Pain:Chronic pain frequently coexists with mental health concerns, complex trauma, and PTSD, forming a complex and interdependent relationship. Here's an overview of their interconnectedness:
Mental Health Concerns: Conditions such as anxiety and depression often accompany chronic pain, amplifying the distress experienced by individuals. Psychological factors, such as negative emotions, stress, and maladaptive coping mechanisms, can exacerbate pain perception and decrease pain tolerance.
Complex Trauma: Complex trauma refers to prolonged or repeated exposure to traumatic events, often occurring in interpersonal relationships, such as childhood abuse or neglect. Individuals with a history of complex trauma may develop heightened physical and emotional sensitivities, including increased vulnerability to chronic pain.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD can result from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event and involves the persistent re-experiencing of the trauma, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Chronic pain can be an embodiment of trauma, as the body holds memories and emotional imprints from past traumatic experiences.
Understanding the link between mental health concerns, complex trauma, PTSD, and chronic pain highlights the importance of addressing psychological factors in pain management. EMDR offers a unique approach by directly targeting and resolving the emotional and cognitive aspects associated with chronic pain.
EMDR provides a transformative path to address chronic pain by recognizing its psychological roots. Through its targeted approach to processing distressing memories, emotions, and beliefs, EMDR offers individuals like Jane an opportunity to heal from both physical and emotional burdens. By acknowledging the interplay between mental health concerns, complex trauma, PTSD, and chronic pain, we can adopt a holistic approach to pain management that considers the mind-body connection and fosters comprehensive healing.
Chronic pain is a complex condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide, significantly impacting their quality of life. Traditional treatment approaches often focus on medication management and physical therapy, but these may not address the underlying psychological factors contributing to chronic pain. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a psychotherapeutic technique originally developed for the treatment of trauma, has shown promising results in alleviating chronic pain by targeting its psychological aspects. This section provides an informative overview of EMDR for chronic pain, exploring its process and evidence-based efficacy.
EMDR Process for Chronic Pain
EMDR is a therapeutic approach that integrates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with bilateral stimulation techniques, such as eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones. It involves an eight-phase protocol, designed to help individuals process distressing memories, emotions, and beliefs associated with traumatic experiences or other psychological issues.
History Taking and Treatment Planning: The therapist gathers comprehensive information about the client's chronic pain history,
including its onset, intensity, and related emotional experiences. They collaboratively develop a treatment plan tailored to the individual's needs.
Preparation: The therapist explains the EMDR process, establishes rapport, and teaches coping skills to ensure the client's emotional stability and readiness for subsequent phases.
Assessment: The client identifies a target memory or belief associated with the chronic pain experience. This memory serves as a focal point for processing during EMDR sessions.
Desensitization: Bilateral stimulation (e.g., eye movements) is used while the client focuses on the target memory or belief, allowing the reprocessing of associated thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This process aims to reduce distress and promote adaptive resolution.
Installation: Positive beliefs and insights are developed to replace negative beliefs associated with chronic pain. The therapist guides the client in internalizing these positive cognitions.
Body Scan: Attention is directed towards the physical sensations related to the chronic pain experience. EMDR is used to process and resolve any distressing somatic elements associated with pain.
Closure: The session is concluded, ensuring the client is grounded and emotionally stable. Coping strategies are reinforced to promote stability between sessions.
Reevaluation: The therapist assesses the progress made since the previous session, identifies any remaining distress, and determines the need for further target processing.
Several studies have explored the effectiveness of EMDR in reducing chronic pain severity and improving overall well-being. While the exact mechanisms of action are not yet fully understood, EMDR is thought to modulate neural networks involved in pain perception and emotional processing. Some noteworthy research findings include:
A randomized controlled trial by Schneider et al. (2017) demonstrated that EMDR, when combined with standard medical treatment, resulted in significant reductions in chronic pain intensity compared to the control group.
Van der Vleugel et al. (2018) conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, revealing that EMDR significantly reduced pain intensity and pain-related disability in individuals with chronic pain conditions.
A case study by Ignatius and Smeets (2020) explored the application of EMDR in fibromyalgia, indicating a reduction in pain intensity, psychological distress, and fatigue after treatment.
EMDR offers a novel therapeutic approach for individuals with chronic pain, addressing the psychological factors that contribute to their suffering. By facilitating the reprocessing of distressing memories, emotions, and beliefs, EMDR has shown promise in reducing pain severity and improving overall well-being. While further research is warranted, the existing evidence supports the integration of EMDR into comprehensive treatment plans for chronic pain management.
The Window of Tolerance model is a framework that explains how individuals cope with different types of demands, triggers, stressors, and unexpected events. It describes the range of emotions, physiological responses, and behaviors that are considered to be "normal" or "adaptive" in any given situation.
Dealing and responding within the window of tolerance means that an individual is able to remain resourced, resilient, and relaxed in the face of various demands. They are able to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively and without becoming overwhelmed.
However, some events or triggers may be more powerful than others and can push an individual outside of their window of tolerance. For example, a traumatic event from the past may be particularly triggering for an individual and push them into a state of hyperarousal or dissociation.
It is important to note that the window of tolerance is not a fixed concept and can change depending on an individual's current level of stress, their past experiences, and their overall resilience. Therefore, it is important for individuals to understand their own window of tolerance and to work on developing strategies to expand it.
Examples of strategies to expand the window of tolerance include practicing mindfulness, engaging in regular physical activity, building a supportive social network, and seeking professional help when necessary. By expanding the window of tolerance, individuals can increase their ability to cope with demands, triggers, and unexpected events, and lead a more resilient and fulfilling life.
A regulated nervous system is one that is able to effectively respond to different types of demands and stressors without becoming overwhelmed. As mentioned before, this means that an individual's physiological responses, emotions, and behaviors are within a "normal" or "adaptive" range. You are able to regulate your physiological arousal, such as heart rate and breathing, and are able to modulate your emotions and behaviors in a way that allows you to respond effectively to different situations. You are within the window of tolerance.
On the other hand, if your nervous system is unregulated you are easily overwhelmed by demands and stressors. This can lead to a state of hyperarousal or dissociation, where an individual's physiological responses, emotions, and behaviors are outside the window of tolerance.
You may experience symptoms of dysregulation: rapid heart rate and shallow breathing, and unable or struggle
responding effectively. You may feel overwhelmed, anxious, agitated, angry (signs of hyperarousal). Or your mind goes blank, your body freezes, or experience a sense of disconnet and not beng fully present. This state is called hypoarousal.
An unregulated nervous system can have negative impacts on an your mental and physical health, and can lead to a wide range of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and difficulty with relationships and daily functioning.