EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
EMDR (Eye, Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing) is a mind-body therapy approach that was developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980’s when she realized the combination of walking and sweeping eye movements enabled her to become less bothered by a stressful thought. This experience stimulated research to determine if these eye movements could reduce unpleasant memories in therapy and resulted in her formulating a therapy that helps people heal from distress utilizing this natural process.
EMDR therapy has eight phases of treatment which addresses the past, present, and future aspects of the difunctionally stored memories. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation such as tappers or lights) are used during parts of some of the phases. EMDR looks very different from traditional talk therapy, and it can bring relatively swift relief for most people compared to many conventional therapy approaches.
Research on the effectiveness of EMDR is constantly ongoing. Studies suggest that we process intellectual material in a different part of the brain than emotional material. The back-and-forth bilateral stimulation of EMDR helps the various parts of the brain communicate. This reasoning is why people with trauma may not always be assisted by talk therapy alone, since talk therapy is designed to activate only the rational side of the brain. Through EMDR, the bilateral stimulation “unsticks” the trauma and allows the brain and body to process the traumatic experience through a client-centered free association process. EMDR does not require dialogue about a client’s experience and uses this natural process to reprocess the information, which allows the client’s body and brain to change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that have been left behind from their experience and are causing symptoms. EMDR does not erase past feelings or events, and instead, positive EMDR therapy assists clients with experiencing emotions with less distress and alternate less dysfunctional perspectives.
EMDR has been found to be effective by more than 24 randomized studies. Relief has been reported in hundreds of case studies. EMDR is listed as an evidence-based treatment for trauma by my government agencies including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Department of Veterans Affairs, The American Psychiatric Association, The World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense.
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