Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing*

Do you have troubling thoughts from the past you can't seem to get over?

Has something traumatic happened to you that you just can't get past?

I urge you to consider EMDR - it truly could change your life!

Eye  Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful new  method of doing psychotherapy.  To date, EMDR has helped an estimated  half-million people of all ages relieve many different types of  psychological distress.

How was EMDR Developed?

In  1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation  that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts under  certain conditions.  Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically,  and in 1989 she reported success using EMDR to treat victims of trauma  in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.  Since then, EMDR has developed and  evolved through the contributions of therapists and researchers all over  the world.  Today, EMDR is a set of protocols that incorporate elements  from many different treatment approaches.

What kinds of problems can EMDR treat?

Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   However, clinicians have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:  

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  
  • Addiction  
  • Anxiety disorders, anxiety attacks  
  • Complicated grief  
  • Dissociative disorders  
  • Disturbing memories  
  • Panic attacks  
  • Performance anxiety  
  • Phobias  
  • Physical and/or sexual abuse  
  • Stress reduction  

How does EMDR work?

No  one knows exactly how EMDR works.  However, we do know that when a  person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does  ordinarily.  One moment becomes 'frozen in time', and remembering a  trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the  images, sounds, smells and feelings haven't changed.  Such memories have  a lasting negative effect on the way a person sees the world and  relates to other people that interfere with his or her life.  

EMDR  seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain functions.   Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR  session, the images, sounds, and feelings are relived no longer when  the event is brought to mind.  What happened is still remembered, but it  is less upsetting.  Many types of therapy have similar goals.  However,  EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or  REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.  Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a  physiologically-based therapy that helps a person see disturbing  material in a new and less distressing way.  

Unique to EMDR is the  view that incomplete processing and incomplete integration of memories  of trauma and/or disturbing life experiences are a primary basis of  psychopathology (abnormal mental functioning).  Specific procedural  steps are used to access and process information and incorporate  alternate bilateral sensory stimulation (eye movements, tapping, light  bars, etc.).  These treatment procedures and protocols are intended to  create states of dual attention to faciliate information processing.  

A  number of scientific studies have shown that EMDR is effective. For  example, the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology  published research by Wilson, Becker, and Tinker in December 1995. This  study of 80 subjects with post-traumatic stress demonstrated that  clients improved significantly with EMDR treatment, and further study  showed that this beneficial effect was maintained for at least 15  months. The findings from this and other studies indicate that EMDR is  highly effective and that results are long lasting. For further  references, a bibliography of research on EMDR may be obtained through  EMDRIA*.  

How long does EMDR take?

One  or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the  nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate  treatment.  The therapist also will discuss EMDR more fully and provide  an opportunity to answer any questions about the method.  Once the  therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific  problem, the actual EMDR therapy can begin.  
A typical EMDR  session lasts about 60-90 minutes.  The type of problem, life  circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many  treatment sessions are necessary.  A single session of EMDR is  sufficient in some cases.  However, a typical course of treatment is 3  to 10 sessions, performed weekly, or every other week.  EMDR may be used  with a standard 'talking' therapy, or as a treatment all by itself.   

What is an EMDR session like?

During  EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific  problem to be the focus of a treatment session.  The client calls to  mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought,  etc., and what thoughts and beliefs currently are held about that  event.  The therapist performs sets of eye movements while the client  focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever  comes to mind without any effort to control direction or content.  Each  person will process information uniquely, based on personal experience  and values.  It is important to understand that there is no way to do  EMDR incorrectly!  Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory  becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and  beliefs about oneself.  For example, "I did the best I could."  During  EMDR the client may experience intense emotions but by the end of the  session most people report a great reduction in the level of  disturbance.  

*Information from: EMDR International Association: www.emdria.com