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What is the Flash Technique in EMDR Therapy?

What is the Flash Technique in EMDR Therapy?

The therapeutic technique of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. It has since become a empirically proven treatment for people suffering from trauma. Before practicing EMDR, therapists must learn the technique through rigorous coursework, training and supervision.

The protocols for EMDR are very specific, and results and relief for the client come at a much faster rate than cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy. A newer EMDR therapy, the Flash Technique was developed in mid 2016 by Manfield, P., Lovett, J., Engel, L., & Manfield, D. According to the Trauma Institute & Child Trauma Institute, the Flash Technique is an improvement over EMDR because the client’s focus on the trauma is but a blink of time. Because of this, there is much less distress relative to painful memories. The distress is also reduced very quickly and painlessly.

In standard EMDR it might take the therapist an hour or more if the trauma isn’t complicated, but with complex trauma EMDR treatment might take longer to resolve. Flash is much more efficient. After only a few repetitions, the subjective units of disturbance scale (SUDS) 0-10, are reduced to a two or even a zero within a few minutes. Also of note, client’s who are adverse to EMDR because their memories are so painful, may be more willing to try this new technique because of the quickness of the technique and the immediate results. If SUD decreases, but not to a zero, the therapist may then use the standard EMDR protocol for continued treatment.

Basically, when using the Flash technique, the therapist has the person focus on a highly engaging positive memory or thought. This is strengthened with short sets of eye movements. Once this is established or installed, the therapist asks the client to focus on the positive memory, and then flash (a rapid one blink of their eyes) on the identified disturbing event. Once the client successfully experiences no disturbing feelings after about five sets of bilateral eye movement, the therapist then tell the clients to increase the flash/blink to three rapid blinks. In each set, the client starts and returns to the positive image. The flash/blink is so rapid that the client sometimes doesn’t know if they are doing it right. At the end of the session, the therapist asks the client, when they think about the traumatic memory, how do they rate the SUD. Clients tend to say the memory is there, but the disturbing memory is gone.

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