Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed in 1987 for psychological patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has been used in the psychotherapy field to help alleviate stress and effectively treat trauma. It’s also recently been in the spotlight due to being effective for eliminating internal obstacles and helping individuals reach their optimal peak performance.
EMDR therapy changes the brain’s neural networks by connecting traumatic memory with new and ideal information. This means EMDR replaces a psychological trauma and links neural pathways to positive thoughts and emotions instead. This allows the body to resolve trauma and have a more positive response to traumatic sensations.
However, recent studies have promoted EMDR therapy for those looking to reach their peak performance. Peak performance is a state where an individual is in their optimal zone of functioning. If you’ve considered trying EMDR, we’ll give you a breakdown of whether or not this treatment can be right for you.
What is Peak Performance?
Peak performance is a state of mind where one is optimizing their effectiveness in aspects of their life. They are not turning to other negative emotions and instead are focused, driven, and determined to accomplish goals. Peak performance is often used in psychology to describe skills relating to sports, performing arts, or even the workplace.
However, peak performance can be applied to daily tasks as well—many individuals associate peak performance with music, sports, or the workplace.
How Does EMDR Therapy Relate to Peak Performance?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Performance Enhancement Psychology Protocol (EMDR-PEP) is a psychotherapy technique that focuses on performance anxiety. This protocol is known for addressing the following issues related to peak performance:
Self-defeating beliefs are when you have a negative perception of yourself and your ability to improve. These self-defeating beliefs can end up contributing to feelings of anxiety and may cause you to panic. Working through this trauma, you’ll be able to improve your performance without coming into contact with these negative thoughts.
Behavioral inhibition in psychology relates to a personality type prone to distress and nervousness regarding new environments or situations. Many of us go through this stage when we’re younger. However, behavioral inhibition can carry into adulthood.
Post Traumatic Stress
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder where one relives a traumatic event. It’s commonly expressed through stress, anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, other symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and increased anxiety.
For peak performance, this could translate to traumatic events related to environments or behaviors. An example would be maybe the individual threw up on stage and now has stage fright or got yelled at in front of their coworkers.
Psychological Recovery of an Injury
While injuries can impact one’s physical health, they can also be very damaging mentally. Psychological recovery is key to relieving feelings of sadness, irritation, anger, and lack of motivation. Other impacts of a physical injury can be changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and everyday task performance.
Non Pathological Issues
However, EMDR-PEP has also been found to be effective for the following non-pathological issues relating to peak performance:
Procrastination is a behavior where you avoid completing a specific task by a particular deadline. According to Brown University, procrastination is due to poor time management skills. However, other emotions such as lack of relevance, perfectionism, and evaluation anxiety are also tied to peak performance.
Fear of Failure (Atychiphobia)
Another common emotion that doesn’t usually stem from PTSD is a fear of failure. Fear of failure is often connected to mood disorders and contributes to fear and anxiety in everyday tasks. Hence, it can usually hold individuals from reaching their peak performance.
Setbacks include hardships, loss, and hopelessness. These emotions are often the result of a life event that may cause distress. While most setbacks tend to heal over time, some individuals may struggle to move forward and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Hence, reaching peak performance using EMDR can help eliminate negative emotions that setbacks may cause.
The last type of problem EMDR therapy can help with is life transitions. Whether you’re moving to a new city, starting a new school, or even adjusting to a new workplace, EMDR can help. Many emotions can arise from life transitions, including fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.
What Can You Expect From EMDR Therapy?
A more in-depth description of EMDR is that it reprograms emotions that are associated with a traumatic event. In EMDR, you’ll end up reliving the trauma in small doses in an eight-phase treatment plan. Each stage can take multiple sessions, as the rate of improvement is different for each individual.
Here are the stages of EMDR therapy with a brief description of what each phase entails:
- History and Treatment Planning: 1-2 sessions addressing the patient’s history and coming up with a treatment plan.
- Preparation: 1-4 sessions of teaching techniques to rapidly deal with any negative emotions and establish trust between patient and therapist.
- Assessment: 3+ sessions of reprocessing and evaluation in a controlled environment.
- Desensitization: 3+ sessions of reprogramming negative emotions and sensations using desensitization.
- Installation: increase positive beliefs and increase strength using positive cognition.
- Body Scan: testing the target event and seeing any residual tension or negative emotions that come forward.
- Closure: a phase in each session where the end of the session will end with the patient feeling more positive than when they walked in.
- Reevaluation: Each session will be reevaluated at every meeting to ensure that the treatment plans are working as intended.
EMDR Treatment for Internal Obstacles
Internal obstacles are a bit different from PTSD or other types of trauma. The emotions associated with internal barriers are connected to fear, anxiety, and depression. Other emotions can be egotism and also low self-esteem. Either way, these types of emotions are what hold individuals back from attaining specific goals.
EMDR treatment can help reprocess the brain and help individuals associate positive emotions with accomplishing a task. The treatment process is very similar to PTSD, except the main difference is that the treatment will not be curing trauma but instead targeting negative emotions or beliefs that prevent the individual from reaching peak performance.
Outcomes of EMDR Therapy
Depending on what goals the individual has, the outcome for each patient will be different. The main goal, however, will be to get the individual to peak performance. Once peak performance is reached, then the individual can stop EMDR therapy.
For those focusing on physical or musical peak performance, EMDR therapy will help overcome performance anxiety, psychological effects of physical injuries, and negative emotions associated with performing.
As for the workplace, EMDR therapy can help relieve anxiety, fears of poor performance, and procrastination. Individuals will be able to successfully and confidently complete work-related tasks without becoming triggered.
It can be a confusing choice on whether or not EMDR therapy can help you. Of course, there are many proven studies to show that EMDR can be effective for reaching peak performance. Being able to function at total capacity allows you to open so many doors for new opportunities.
If you’ve been struggling with reaching your peak performance, then seeing a therapist can help assess if EMDR therapy is right for you as an individual. Working through negative emotions will help improve your everyday life and help you reach your goals.
That being said, EMDR isn’t practical for everyone. It can only help as much as you’re willing to help yourself. EMDR therapy is a good tool, but you will also have to put in just as much effort to improve.