Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment approach that was originally developed in the late 1980s by a psychologist named Francine Shapiro. It uses non-invasive, bilateral stimulation of the brain combined with a protocol that can help “un-stick” traumatic memories and experiences so that they can be processed by the brain’s information processing system. It typically can work faster than conventional “talking” therapies.
For people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR can help them become desensitized to the trauma so that they no longer have flashbacks, nightmares, constant fearfulness, and the sense of despair that can plague them. It can help them recall the distressing event without being overwhelmed by the emotions, and can even help them come to a new understanding about the meaning of the trauma.
For people with non-trauma related issues, such as specific phobias, complicated grief, or other painful memories, EMDR can typically help them explore how other experiences and thoughts they have about themselves may be contributing to their current distress or pain. Through the use of EMDR they can come to an “adaptive resolution” of their issues in which they not only have a different understanding of what happened and the accompanying relief that brings, but can also emerge from the process with greater feelings of strength, independence, and confidence.
EMDR isn’t a “magic bullet,” but it can provide relief for symptoms in a surprisingly rapid way. It isn’t for everyone, nor is it for every single issue. I have seen it help 9/11 survivors, other trauma survivors, combat veterans, as well as people with significant “blocks” in their life.
I recommend clients visit the EMDR International Association web site www.emdria.org.