What Is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and was developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in 1987. It has been extensively researched and empirically proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD by the U.S. Department of Defense, the American Psychological Association, World Health Organization, and the American Psychiatric Association.
What Else Can EMDR Treat?
EMDR can be used to relieve emotional distress caused by adverse life experiences and past traumatic events that impact one’s present day emotional well being. Such events can include: childhood or adult physical, emotional or sexual abuse, domestic violence or assault, relational trauma such as divorce, separation, family dysfunction, or loss of relationship, natural disasters, car accidents, or any stressful experience that you cannot seem to heal from. It is also used to treat anxiety, depression, phobias, addiction, panic attacks, complicated grief, performance anxiety, somatic issues, and pain.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR utilizes the natural healing ability of your brain. The mind can often heal itself in the same way that the body does. When a traumatic experience occurs, your normal coping mechanism can become overwhelmed and this can result in the memory of the disturbing experience becoming “stuck or frozen” in your brain along with the negative thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations you experienced at the time of the event. These “unprocessed” memories are stored in a separate part of your brain called the limbic system and remain isolated and unintegrated with the other memory networks that process information and form appropriate and adaptive responses to experiences. As a result, when you encounter something that reminds you of the trauma experience, you can feel “triggered” as though “the past is present.”
EMDR is thought to be similar to what we experience during REM sleep when our brains process and digest our experiences while we sleep. By utilizing sets of bilateral eye movements, or other forms of bilateral stimulation such as tapping or headphones, while focusing on aspects of the disturbing event, desensitization occurs and the frozen memory networks connect and link up to the present forming an adaptive learning and healing experience.
In between sets, the therapist will stop and ask you what you noticed. You may experience changes in thoughts, feelings, and/or images, and with repeated sets of eye movements, new connections and insights will occur spontaneously and organically from within. At times, the therapist will intervene, but mostly it is the client who is in control, allowing his/her brain to do the work. The “old stuff” can be released, and healing can take place. Many clients have reported that EMDR is an empowering and healing therapeutic experience.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about EMDR therapy, or if you are interested in a consultation. You may also see my profile at Parnell Institute for AF-EMDR here: www.parnellemdr.com
For more information, please take a look at the following video produced by EMDRIA, and the one below it with Francine Shapiro, Ph.D, founder of EMDR Therapy, featured at the end of the video: