Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Studies show that through the use of EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy proves that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you have a cut on your body, your body works to close the wound. If there is a repeated injury or the wound is irritated, it festers and causes pain. Once the 'block' is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the processing system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound continues to fester and can cause intense ongoing suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR helps clients activate their natural healing processes.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR therapy integrates elements of traditional psychological modalities and is based on the adaptive information processing model (AIP). The AIP model hypothesizes that there is an inherent information processing system in the brain that gets blocked when traumatic or adverse events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Whenever a reminder of the traumatic or adverse event comes up, those pictures, thoughts, feelings, and sensations can continue to be triggered.
According to Dr. Shapiro, many emotional problems and disorders are manifestations of these unprocessed trauma memories that are stored in the brain. EMDR therapy works on helping the brain reprocess these traumatic memories, and as a result alleviating the emotional and psychological disorders.
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment that integrates past events, current triggers and future templates leading to increased adaptation. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, the client is asked to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use their eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, internal associations arise and the client begins 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.” The insights clients gain in EMDR result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The goal effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once destabilized them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution.
Who Can Benefit From EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to help people heal from trauma or adversities such as issues of abuse, bullying, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, grief/loss, attachment wounds, abandonment, PTSD, and many other complicated life issues.
Disturbing events are all valid regardless of how small or large they appear to be or if they occurred once or on numerous occasions.
EMDR therapy is an evidence-based approach that has been shown in numerous studies to be an effective form of treatment with adults, children and teens.