Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a widely recognized integrative therapy approach. This technique was originally invented by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987 in order to treat trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over the years, EMDR has also proved effective for the treatment of many other types of emotional distress, including anxiety disorders, depression, grief, eating disorders, and addiction.
When a disturbing event occurs, it can get stored in your memory along with negative feelings and sensations associated with that experience. These memories can have a negative impact on your well-being as they affect ways in which you perceive the world and the people around you based of your traumatic memories. Thus, it can influence every area of your functioning, including your career, your relationships, and your health.
EMDR helps to access painful and disturbing memories in order to reprocess them in ways that are more adaptive. During EMDR the therapist uses visual, auditory, or tactile rhythmic side-to-side movements in order to bi-laterally stimulate the brain and help it reprocess thoughts, feelings, and sensations without associations that cause distress. The ultimate goal is to help you establish understanding and perspectives that will lead to adaptive behaviors and healthy relationships with others.
Many people who hear about EMDR wonder how is it possible for the brain to reprocess information with bi-lateral stimulation and why is this technique effective. Many question: what is the mechanism behind it? What could help you understand the process by which EMDR works is examining the Rapid Eye Movement stage of the sleep cycle (REM stage), also known for the stage during which people dream. If you ever watched anyone sleep, you might have noticed that their eyes are moving rapidly side to side. This rapid eye movement occurs when people are dreaming. The brain is being stimulated with rapid eye movements during this sleep stage and helps people process their memories and experiences. Similarly, bi-lateral stimulation of the brain during EMDR treatment helps reprocess memories and experiences.
CONDITIONS SUCCESSFULLY TREATED WITH EMDR
· Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Gauvreau & Bouchard, 2008)
· Depression (Hoffman, 2015)
· Complex Trauma (Shapiro, 1993)
· Phobias (de Jongh, et al, 2002)
· Panic Disorder (Fernandez and Faretta, 2007)
· Conduct Problems and Self-Esteem (Soberman et al, 2002)
· Grief and Mourning (Solomon & Rando, 2007)
· Sexual Dysfunction (Wernik, 1993)
· Pedophilia (Ricci et al., 2006)
· Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Brown et al., 1997)
· Chronic Pain (Grant & Threflo, 2002)
· Migraine Headaches (Marcus, 2008)
· Phantom Limb (De Roos et al., 2010)
· Unexplained Physical Symptoms (van Rood & de Roos, 2009)
If you would like to read more about EMDR therapy, below are some sources that you can use for additional information:
- Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain (Solomon & Siegel, 2003)
- Utilization of EMDR with Grief and Mourning (Solomon & Rando, 2007)
- Sleep-Dependent Memory Processing and EMDR action (Stickgold, 2008)
- Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-help Techniques From EMDR Therapy (Shapiro 2012)
- EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma (Shapiro, 2016)