EMDR Basics

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of treatment used both for major life traumas and disturbing life experiences. This client-centered way of working with trauma was first explored in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.; since then there has been considerable research and development. The research has led the American Psychiatric Society to recommend it at the highest level of effectiveness for certain patterns of trauma symptoms known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The development over the years has also broadened the range of complaints that EMDR is used to treat effectively. It is now used for issues as varied as depression, addictions, the psychological impact of suffering a major illness, and performance anxiety. It is used with adults, adolescents, and children.

When EMDR is successfully completed for trauma, the client may feel safe for the first time since the disturbing life events; these events feel safely relegated to the past. They may be remembered, if so desired, with little or no distress. Disturbing symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, and numbness resolve. The client has more emotional energy available for the present and the future.

Trauma interferes with the healthy functioning of the mind and brain. EMDR is based on the understanding that these are designed to heal themselves after injurious experiences. When the injury is too great the innate healing process stalls. EMDR is designed to work in harmony with the person’s natural response of “metabolizing” traumatic experiences. The result of this “metabolism” is that wisdom is gathered from the experiences while the disturbing feelings and beliefs about oneself are dispelled.