Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.
The mind can often heal itself naturally, in the same way the body does. Much of this natural coping mechanism occurs during sleep, particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987, utilizing this natural process in order to successfully treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has been used to effectively treat a wide range of mental health problems. These include the following:
- Anxiety and Panic Attacks
- Sleep Problems
- Grief and Loss
- Pain, including phantom limb pain
- Performance Anxiety
- Feelings of Worthlessness/Low Self-Esteem
What happens when you are traumatized?
Most of the time, your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something out of the ordinary occurs and you are traumatized by an overwhelming event (e.g. a car accident) or by being repeatedly subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect), your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining frozen in your brain or being “unprocessed.” Such unprocessed memories and feelings are stored in the limbic system of your brain in a “raw” and emotional form, rather than in a verbal “story” mode. The limbic system’s traumatic memories can be continually triggered when you experience events similar to the difficult experiences you have been through. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way.
What is an EMDR session like?
EMDR utilizes the natural healing ability of your body. After a thorough assessment and development of a treatment plan, you will be asked specific questions about a particular disturbing memory. Eye movements, similar to those during REM sleep, will be recreated simply by asking you to watch the therapist’s finger moving backwards and forwards across your visual field. Sometimes, tapping is used instead (bilateral stimulation). The eye movements will last for a short while and then stop. You will then be asked to report back on the experiences you ahve had during each of these sets of eye movements. Experiences during a session may include changes in thoughts, images, and feelings.
With repeated sets of eye movements, the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also heal at the same time. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvement in many aspects of your life.
How long does treatment take?
EMDR can be brief focused treatment or part of a longer psychotherapy treatment plan. EMDR can be easily integrated with other approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. For best effects, EMDR sessions during the actual reprocessing phases of treatment usually last from 60 to 90 minutes. Positive effects have been seen after one session of EMDR
What evidence is there that EMDR is a successful treatment?
EMDR is an innovative clinical treatment which has successfully helped over a million individuals. The validity and reliability of EMDR has been established by rigorous research. There are now over nineteen controlled studies into EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method used in treatment of trauma. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Department of Defense, Veteran’s Administration, insurance companies, and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies recognize EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD. For further information about EMDR, check out www.emdria.org or www.emdr.com.