EMDR was originally developed 35 years ago in the context of patients with serious PTSD symptoms.  At that time, "trauma" was defined as an extraordinary event that only affected people like war veterans and survivors of natural disasters, abuse  or interpersonal violence. 

Since then, however, the concept of trauma has changed dramatically and we now recognize the prevalence of "little T" traumas. These are much more chronic, complex and commonplace traumas. Little T traumas are much more nuanced and complicated — often, we don’t even realize they are having an impact on our everyday lives. The most impactful little T traumas occur in our families when we are young. They range from being yelled at, being hit, being criticized, being ignored, to being shamed, bullied, humiliated, teased, etc. They interfere with the development of a healthy self-concept and healthy relationships.  Over time, the repetitive little T traumas cause us to develop defenses and coping mechanisms to protect ourselves.  Often, these evolve into behavioral patterns that actually cause problems and block growth. We now believe that early attachment injuries and little Ts can contribute to the development of disorders such as  depression, anxiety, panic attacks and phobias.

Trauma—in any form—typically manifests as a sense of dysregulation. You may find it difficult to control your emotions and reactions to everyday challenges and conflicts. Perhaps you act out emotionally, physically or sexually, but are not sure why. Or maybe you try to avoid feeling altogether. You may even seek to numb your pain with drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors. Many people attempt to “turn off” emotions when things start to feel too intense, but just because you may not externally express emotions doesn’t mean they aren’t there, bubbling just below the surface. 

Whether “Big T" or “little T"— trauma can trap you in a cycle of unhealthy patterns until the root issues at the source are addressed. Whether or not you consciously realize it, unresolved pain and traumatic experiences from the distant past can directly affect the relationships you have today. Most importantly, they shape the relationship you have with yourself. EMDR allows you to reprocess traumatic experiences and to transform negative beliefs and patterns in a lasting way. This  results in tangible changes and an increased capacity to enjoy life and achieve goals.  
Below is some basic information about how EMDR 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.  The Veterans Administration 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, incident  or issue while bilateral stimulation is applied.  Bilateral brain stimulation can be produced in three ways: visually, kinesthetically or auditorily (via eye movements, tapping or a headset using bilateral tones).   The stimulation activates the brain, allowing it to fully process the problem.  A desensitization of the disturbing event/issue occurs, as well as a reprocessing that leads to a sense of resolution. Perhaps most importantly, the negative self-beliefs related to the event/issue (such as I am unlovable, unimportant, inadequate, a failure etc.) shift to something far more realistic and positive.  

 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, evidencing the bilateral brain activity that is occurring between the two hemispheres of the brain.  It is thought that while this bilateral activity 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 and associated negative self-states 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, intrusive memories, phobias, eating disorders, performance anxiety, addictions and self-esteem issues.  More recently it has been shown to reduce impulsivity and may even help with ADHD.

 Performance Enhancement

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.