What is EMDR?

The mind can often heal itself naturally, in the same way as the body does. Much of this natural coping mechanism occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Francine Shapiro developed the evidenced based psychotherapy intervention Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987, utilizing this natural process in order to successfully treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has effectively helped millions of people of all ages with a wide variety of mental health concerns.

What is an EMDR session like?

Throughout the session, the therapist facilitates bilateral, right to left, movement of the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain (tones or tapping), while the client focuses on the disturbing material. The client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control or direct content. Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. Sets of bilateral movements are continued until the memory loses its painful intensity and becomes less disturbing and is now associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self. During EMDR treatment, you will remain in control, fully alert and wide-awake. This is not a form of hypnosis and you can stop the process at any time.

EMDR and memories

When a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information and organize a memory as it ordinarily would. An upsetting experience can become “frozen” in the mind and interferes with the way a person feels, sees the world, and the way they relate to other people. Many people experience persistent negative emotions, intrusive thoughts, and unpleasant body sensations when triggered of the upsetting experience. Most experts agree that the best way to get “unstuck” and become free from the unpleasant symptoms is through exposure to the upsetting experience through processing. EMDR allows the person to work through the difficult memories and allows for the memory to become successfully organized and stored in the brain. EMDR does not take away the memory. You will still remember it, but it will be more distant, vague, and not as distressing. EMDR creates a relaxation response which reduces emotionality and allows for the learning of new information.Natural information processing is then resumed following a successful EMDR session so a person no longer relives the images, sounds and feelings when the event is brought to mind.

Who can benefit from EMDR?

In addition to its use for the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR has been successfully used to treat:

• Anxiety and panic attacks                                              • Robbery
• Anger management                                                        • Sexual and physical abuse
• Injuries (accidents, sports, dog bite etc)                      • Dissociative Disorders
• Repeated medical interventions                                   • Natural disasters (hurricane, fire, tornado, flood)
• OCD                                                                                    • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
• Reactive Attachment Disorder                                      • Phobias and fears (animals, heights, snakes etc)
• Eating Disorders                                                              • Triggering Urges (smoking, cutting, etc.)
• ADHD                                                                                 • Addictions (substance abuse, gambling, sex)
• Depression                                                                        • Sleep problems
• Stress reduction                                                               • Complicated grief or loss
• Domestic Violence                                                            • Pain relief, phantom limb pain
• Car accidents                                                                     • Self-esteem and performance anxiety