While originally trained as a talk therapist, I found that there were limits to the change that insight alone could yield. EMDR allows you to transform negative beliefs and patterns in a lasting way, resulting in tangible changes and an increased capacity to enjoy life and achieve goals. Below is some basic information about EMDR and how it works:
What is EMDR?
The acronym is short for what is quite a mouthful, it stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is an accelerated and adaptive model of therapy that can sometimes resolve problems in a few sessions. There have been more that 20 controlled studies that found EMDR to decrease or eliminate symptoms related to trauma and anxiety. Recently, the Veterans Administration has endorsed EMDR as the therapy of choice for soldiers returning from Iraq with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The VA does not make such recommendations unless the treatment is heavily researched and shows significant positive results.
Is EMDR a New Therapy?
No, EMDR was discovered in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, a California psychologist. Now, over 2,000,000 people have been treated with EMDR from around the world and thousands of mental health professionals are trained in EMDR. This is a potent therapeutic tool that has provided incredible results for many problems. Clinicians who use EMDR point to four key distinctions between EMDR and traditional forms of therapy. "Effectiveness, Efficiency, Ease of Benefit, and Enduring Permanent Results." EMDR is not just thinking yourself into acting and feeling better, but a process of actually stimulating the client's own brain and central nervous system to resolve distressing issues and thus function at a much higher capacity.
What is an EMDR Session Like?
The therapist is like a guide on this inner journey. He/she will help you determine what event or issue to work on. Once the problem is identified the client is asked to picture the troubling memory or incident while bilateral stimulation is applied. Bilateral stimulation can be administered in three ways: visually, kinesthetically or auditorilly. The client may be asked to simply watch the therapist's hand as it is passed back and forth in front of his/her eyes. Some clinician's use the more high tech approach and have small vibrating paddles that gently vibrate while the client holds them in their hands or headphones can be worn while beeping occurs in alternating ears. The stimulation activates the brain, allowing it to fully process the problem.
How Does EMDR Work?
Neuroscientists have been studying EMDR using PET scans and MRI to determine exactly what is going on with the brain in a typical EMDR session. Based on this research, the current understanding is that EMDR is related to REM sleep, which is the stage of sleep when dreams occur. During this stage of sleep our eyes move back and forth. It is thought that while this is happening the information of the day is being processed, and is then sent to the part of the brain that stores long term information. Disturbing events that we experience do not get processed normally but instead get stuck in the emotional part of our brain called the limbic system. It is this dysfunctional storage that allows these events to be triggered, causing us to relive the disturbing experiences again and again. EMDR moves these disturbing events out of the limbic system and into long term memory where it belongs.
What problems does EMDR help?
Research shows that it is useful for the treatment of trauma, but clinicians have reported that it is also effective in treating depression, anxiety, stress, grief and loss, personality disorders, intrusive memories, phobias, eating disorders, performance anxiety, addictions and self-esteem issues. More recently it has been shown to reduce impulsivity and can help with ADHD.
EMDR has also been used for performance enhancement. This performance enhancement can occur in most any arena including art, business, sales, athletics, and relationships. EMDR removes blocks that prevent us from performing optimally. We all are carrying some negative blocking belief about ourselves, these beliefs are usually the source of the problem and EMDR removes these types of beliefs permanently.