EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a best-practice, evidence-based psychotherapy that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. It has been approved by international health and government regulatory bodies such as The World Health Organization, The American Psychiatric Association, The US Department of Defense/Veterans Affairs and The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that incorporates elements from many different approaches in combination with bilateral stimulation such as eye movements to help clients process unresolved memories from adverse life experiences and support the brain’s natural capacity to move towards more healthy and adaptive resolution.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR is based on the premise that our brain has the natural ability to reorganize the response to a distressful life experience from an initial state of dysfunction and disequilibrium to a state of adaptive resolution (The Adaptive Information Processing Model). For example, when we experience a distressing event, we normally experience an initial stress response that may include feelings of agitation, fear and anger, physiological stress responses such as increased high rate and blood pressure, and irrational thoughts such as excessive self-criticism. With time, we are normally able to think about the event, talk about it with friends, dream about it and naturally process it. We are able to resolve the distress, learn from it and return to a balanced state of being. However, at times, when someone experiences a traumatic event or is exposed to persistent stress during a sensitive development life stage, their natural capacity for adaptive information processing is disrupted. The traumatic event becomes “stuck” or “frozen in time”. Remembering the distressing event, may feel like living it all over again with the same intensity of emotions and sensations. This affects tremendously how someone views themselves and relate to others.
EMDR appears to have a direct effect on how the brain processes information. It enables the brain to get unstuck and return to its normal functioning. After successful EMDR work, one is able to remember what happened without reliving the distressing images, sounds, and feelings. The traumatic event becomes less upsetting and a person is able to move forward in a positive way.
What type of problems can EMDR treat?
The use EMDR has been extensively researched in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, EMDR can also be used with other types of conditions such as panic attacks, complicated grief, dissociative disorders, disturbing memories, phobias, pain disorders, performance anxiety, stress reduction, sexual and/or physical abuse, and personality disorders.