EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a cost-effective, non-invasive, evidence-based method of psychotherapy that facilitates adaptive information processing, developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD in the late 1980′s. EMDR is an eight-phase treatment which comprehensively identifies and addresses experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping capacity, and have thereby generated traumatic symptoms and/or harmful coping strategies. Through EMDR therapy, patients are able to reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive.
The therapist leads a patient in a series of lateral eye movements while the patient simultaneously focuses on various aspects of a disturbing memory. The left – right eye movements in EMDR are a form of “bilateral stimulation.” Other forms of bilateral stimulation used by EMDR therapists include alternating bilateral sound using headphones and alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of the patient’s hands.
During this procedure, patients tend to “process” the memory in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution. This often results in increased insight regarding both previously disturbing events and long held negative thoughts about the self.
EMDR attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health. For example, an assault victim may come to realize that he was not to blame for what happened, that the event is really over, and, as a result he can regain a general sense of safety in his world. A person fearful of driving due to a terrible car accident in the past, may end the session feeling safe to drive again.
More than 20 controlled clinical trials of EMDR have now been completed and reported, attesting to its value and demonstrating its usefulness across all ages, genders, and cultures for post-traumatic stress disorders.
Thousands of clinicians have been trained in EMDR, and have applied the defining protocols of this psychotherapy to many other conditions beyond PTSD including:
Personality disorders, eating disorders, panic attacks, performance anxiety, complicated grief, stress reduction, dissociative disorders, disturbing memories, addictions, phobias, pain disorders, sexual and/or physical abuse, body dysmorphic disorders compulsive disorders and relational issues.
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