“We often get caught up in disturbing emotions or thoughts. Knowing where they come from can help us remember to do something so we don’t stay stuck. Fear is not a “mental” problem it’s a physiological response and [we] can change it.”
Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR Founder
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy originally developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987 to alleviate distress caused by trauma. EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR treatment is also supportive for other mental health and somatic conditions. 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 American Psychological Association lists EMDR as one of three methods with empirical support for the treatment of PTSD. It has been recognized by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and US Department of Defense as one of four psychotherapies at the highest level of evidence. Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom Departments of Health both indicate EMDR as a treatment of choice. Preliminary studies indicate that EMDR can be helpful with other disorders such as: performance anxiety, pain disorder, social phobia, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and poor self-esteem.
Trauma can include: abuse, neglect, assault (sexual or physical), accidents, or natural disasters. EMDR enables people to heal from disturbing emotions and symptoms that have resulted from traumatic life experiences. As a result of traumatic memories, clients may experience disturbing symptoms such as depression, anxiety, panic, anger, guilt, low self-esteem, difficulty getting on with life, numbing/dissociation, physical illness, disruptive sleep, nightmares, and flashbacks. If a client stays stuck in the traumatic memory, the emotional wound is continually aggravated and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
Studies indicate EMDR is highly effective and the results are long lasting.
What Does EMDR Stand For?
- Eye Movement – stimulates the right and left hemispheres of the brain to support processing of stuck memories.
- Desensitization – removal of disturbing emotions associated with traumatic memories.
- Reprocessing – replaces unhealthy, negative beliefs associated with traumatic memories to more healthy, positive beliefs.
Goals of EMDR
- To treat psychological disorders.
- To alleviate human suffering.
- To assist individuals to fulfill their potential for development.
- To minimize risks of harm in its application.
How Does EMDR Help?
- Alleviates presenting symptoms.
- Decreases/eliminates distress from disturbing memories.
- Improves one’s view of the self.
- Enhances emotional resources such as confidence and self-esteem.
- Relieves bodily disturbances.
- Resolves present and future triggers.
For more information on how EMDR works and what to expect during treatment, see the following article.