WHAT IS EMDR?
EMDR is a therapeutic approach for treating experientially based disorders and emotional difficulties that are caused by disturbing life experiences, ranging from traumatic events such as combat stress, assaults, and natural disaster, to upsetting childhood events. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing .
EMDR is an integrative therapy that brings together elements from well-established clinical theoretical orientations including psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, and client-centered (Shapiro, 2001).
HOW IS IT DONE?
EMDR must be provided by a highly trained and experienced EMDR therapist. Your therapist will use an eight-phase approach guided by an information processing model that views symptoms based upon perceptual information that has been maladaptively stored in the brain. In other words, EMDR treatment focuses on how you perceive the memory (affective, cognitive, and somatic) in order to jumpstart the accessing and processing of disturbing events and which encourages and leads clients on a learning process.
Lets get "scientific"! EMDR aims to (i) facilitate resolution of memories of earlier life experiences (e.g., elicitation of insight, cognitive reorganization, adaptive affects, and physiological responses), (ii) desensitize stimuli that trigger present distress as a result of second-order conditioning, and (iii) incorporate adaptive attitudes, skills, and desired behaviors for enhanced future functioning.
SO HOW WAS THIS TREATMENT DEVELOPED?
In 1987, psychologist Francine Shapiro made the initial observation that led to the development of EMDR. She found that her voluntary eye movements reduced the intensity of negative, disturbing thoughts. Dr. Shapiro initiated a research study (Shapiro, 1989) examining the efficacy of EMDR in treating traumatized Vietnam combat veterans and victims of sexual assault. She asked her clients to attend to emotionally disturbing material while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus, in this case therapist-directed lateral eye movements (but other stimuli including hand tapping and audio stimulation are also often used). The results of this study showed that EMDR significantly reduced clients’ trauma symptoms.
WHY DO CLIENTS SEEM TO RESPOND WELL?
EMDR is a client-centered approach. Symptom relief occurs as a result of processing the distressing memories of the target experience. The structure of EMDR is unlike that of exposure or cognitive therapy (see Rogers & Silver, 2002). It is hypothesized that the application of EMDR allows the clinician to facilitate the mobilization of a client’s own inherent healing mechanism. According to Shapiro, EMDR stimulates the accessing of the traumatic memory network so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information.
WHAT IS THE RESEARCH THAT SUPPORTS EMDR?
EMDR is one of the most researched psychotherapeutic treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Since 1989, approximately 20 controlled studies (e.g., Carlson et al, 1998; Edmond et al., 1999; Ironson et al., 2002; Lee et al., 2002; Marcus et al., 1997,