Trauma and EMDR- Part Nine

In earlier blogs in this series, we’ve referenced Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). Here’s the explanation of this great research-based approach to resolving trauma.

What kind of problems can EMDR treat?

Scientific research has established EMDR as most effective for post-traumatic stress.  However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in the treatment of the following conditions: panic attacks, complicated grief, dissociative disorders, disturbing memories, phobias, pain disorders, performance anxiety, stress reduction, addictions, sexual and/or physical abuse, body dysmorphic disorders, and personality disorders.

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched, and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.

How was EMDR developed?

In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, 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 standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.

How does EMDR work?

No one knows exactly how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. 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, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world, and the way they relate to other people.

EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, such that, following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind.

You still remember what happened, 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.

Written by: Mindy Pierce

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