Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. According to EMDR founder, Francine Shapiro, Ph. D., trauma can be defined as emotions, beliefs, physical sensations, and physiology that is dysfunctionally stored in the body with the memory, that can color our present perceptions, and lead to inappropriate behaviors in the present. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.
How It Works
EMDR Therapy targets the unprocessed memories that contain the negative emotions, sensations and beliefs. EMDR Therapy allows the memory to be reprocessed so that what is useful will be learned and what is useless can be discarded. The memory then can be stored in a way that is no longer damaging.
Under normal circumstances, our bodies have an innate capacity to process disturbing emotions, feelings, memories, physiological sensations and responses. In most instances the body metabolizes the physiology over time so that the memory is stored normally in the neural networks. If the system is overwhelmed, however, the excess physiology is then dysfunctionally stored with the memory in the neural networks. When this memory is triggered consciously or even unconsciously, the memory and/or the physiology is re-experienced as if the person is back in time, overwhelmed by the original, traumatic event. This is what causes symptoms and psychological problems. Often, the traumatized person will try to avoid doing anything that will trigger the re-experiencing of the disturbing symptoms, thus beginning the common pattern of avoidance. In other cases, a person will have no idea what is happening to them to cause the disturbing symptoms. They may not even realize the present symptoms are due to past traumatic events. They may seem to be “coming out of nowhere”.
EMDR was named because eye movements or other forms of bi-lateral stimulation are used in the therapy. It has been found that bilateral (both sides of the brain) stimulation facilitates the reprocessing as in REM sleep. During EMDR Therapy, you focus on particular aspects (images, emotions, sensations and beliefs) associated with a disturbing memory. At the same time, you experience “bilateral stimulation” in the form of eye movements, hand-held pulsers or audio tones. The bilateral stimulation accelerates and deepens the processing in a way that facilitates the integration of the trauma which results in healing. To date, EMDR Therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.
For more information about EMDR visit www.emdria.org.