EMDR is a psychotherapy approach used for treating the emotional discomfort that can result from upsetting life experiences. This emotional discomfort might show up in various ways, like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, low self esteem, stress, difficulty in relationships, and addictions. Sometimes there is a major trauma, like violence, natural disasters, accidents and assaults that can easily be identified as the source of these symptoms. Other times, it is a more subtle but persistent set of emotional injuries, losses and painful events in childhood and adulthood that are being triggered in the present and are affecting our everyday life.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and was first developed by Francine Shaprio in 1987. It is based on the idea that we have a natural tendency toward healing but the brain’s ability to process becomes blocked in the face of trauma and disturbance becomes “trapped” in our memory networks. EMDR is a complex approach, integrating concepts from other therapy models to help access and unlock these emotional disturbances so the brain can desensitize the emotion attached to the material and effectively reprocess the information and experience in a more adaptive way.
The model was first developed to use eye movements during desensitization and reprocessing. It has been theorized that the information processing that happens during REM sleep is activated through the eye movements. It has since been discovered that the same effects can be obtained through other forms of stimulating both the left and right sides of the brain. Tappers have been created that vibrate in the palms of each hand, as well as headphones that alternate auditory stimulation. Since the pandemic began, a simple technique called a “butterfly hug” is used effectively without any equipment.
For the past 20+ years, EMDR has been researched heavily and recommended as an effective treatment for trauma by the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Mental Health. Ask me to learn more about including EMDR in your counseling. You can also read more from websites like the EMDR Institute and the EMDR International Association.