Eye Movement Desentisization
and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful new method of doing psychotherapy.
To date, EMDR has helped an estimated half million people of all ages relieve
many types of psychological stress.
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation
that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thought under certain
conditions. Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically and, in 1989,
she reported success using EMDR to treat victims of trauma in the Journal
of Traumatic Stress. Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved through
the contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world. Today,
EMDR is a set of protocols that incorporate elements from many different
No one knows exactly how EMDR works. However, we
do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information
as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes "frozen in time," and, remembering
a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the
images, sounds, and smells, and feelings haven't changed. Such memories
have a lasting negative effect on the way a person sees the world and relates
to other people that interfere with his or her life.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain functions.
Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR
session, the images, sounds, and feelings no longer are relived when
the event is brought to mind. What happened is still remembered,
but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However,
EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming
or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as
a physiologically-based therapy that helps a person see disturbing
material in a new and less distressing way.
A number of scientific studies have shown that EMDR is effective, for example,
the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology published
research by Wilson, Becker, and Tinker in December 1995. This study
of 80 subjects with post-traumatic stress demonstrated that clients improved
significantly with EMDR treatment, and further study showed that
this beneficial effect was maintained for at least 15 months. The findings
from this and other studies indicate that EMDR is highly effective
and that results are long lasting. For further references, a bibliography
of research on EMDR may be obtained through EMDR.org.
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client
to identify a specific problem to be the focus of the treatment session.
The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen,
felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs currently are
held about that event. The therapist facilitates by directional movement
of the eyes or other bilateral stimulation of the brain while the client
focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever
comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content.
Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences
and values. It is important to understand that there is no way for the
client to do EMDR incorrectly! Sets of eye movements are continued until
the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thought
and beliefs about one's self; for example, "I
did the best I could." During EMDR the client may experience
intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people
report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.
One or more sessions are required for the therapist
to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an
appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully
and provide an opportunity to answer any questions about the method. Once
therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific
problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin.
A typical EMDR session lasts about 90 minutes. The type of problem,
life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how
many treatment sessions are necessary. A single session of
EMDR is sufficient in some cases, however, a typical course of treatment
is 3 to 10 sessions, performed weekly, or every other week. EMDR may be
used within a standard "talking" therapy,
as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment
all by itself.
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for posttraumatic
stress. However, clinicians have reported success using EMDR in treatment
of the following conditions:
sexual and/or physical abuse
This information is courtesy of http://www.emdr.org . Additional questions and concerns may be addressed on their website.