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What Is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful and
effective new method of doing psychotherapy. To date, EMDR has helped
over an estimated half million people of all ages relieve many
different types of psychological distress.
How Was EMDR Developed?
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that
eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts under certain
conditions . Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically and, in 1988 she
reported success using EMDR to treat victims of trauma in the Journal of
Traumatic Stress. Since then EMDR has developed and evolved through the
contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world. Today, EMDR
is a set of protocols that incorporate elements from many different
How Does EMDR Work?
No one knows exactly how EMDR works. However, we do know that when a
person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does
ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and
remembering trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time
because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings have not changed. Such
memories have a lasting negative effect on the way a person sees the world
and relates, so that past events that interfere with his or her life.
Following a successful EMDR session, the images, sounds, and feelings no
longer are relived when the event is brought to mind. What happened is
still remembered, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have
similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs
naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore,
EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a
person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
But Does EMDR Really Work?
A number of scientific studies have shown that EMDR is effective. For
example, the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
published research by Wilson, Becker and Tinker in December 1995. This
study of 80 subjects with post-traumatic stress demonstrated that clients
improved significantly with EMDR treatment, and further study showed that
this beneficial effect was maintained for a least 15 months. The findings
from this and other studies indicate that EMDR is highly effective and
that results are long lasting. For further references a bibliography of
research on EMDR may be obtained through EMDRIA.
"I had been in 'talk therapy' on and off my whole life but was
not able to resolve many of my underlying issues. The EMDR
treatments I recieved from Katherine enabled me to permanently let go of
my past traumas and move forward as a healthier, happier person."
"EMDR has immensely helped me in my professional and personal life. I
found that EMDR was less time consuming than regular counseling, and it
enabled me to let go of negative triggers and reactions I've
carried my whole life"
What Is The Actual EMDR Session Like?
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific
problem to be the focus of a treatment session. The client calls to mind
the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc.,
and what thoughts and beliefs currently are held about that event. The
therapist performs sets of eye movements while the client focuses on the
disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind
without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person
will process information uniquely, based on personal experience and
values. It is important to understand that there is no way (for the
client) to do EMDR incorrectly! Sets of eye movements are continued until
the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thought
and beliefs about oneself; for example, “I did the best I
could.” During EMDR the client may experience intense emotions, but
by the end of the session most people report a great reduction in the
level of disturbance.
How Long Does EMDR Take?
One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the
nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate
treatment. The therapist will discuss EMDR more fully and provide an
opportunity to answer any questions about the method. Once the therapist
and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem,
the actual EMDR therapy can begin.
A typical EMDR session lasts about 90 minutes. The type of problem, life
circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many
treatment sessions are necessary. A single session of EMDR is sufficient
in some cases. However, a typical course of treatment is 3-10 sessions,
performed weekly or every other week. EMDR may be used within a standard
“talking” therapy session, as an adjunctive therapy with a
separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.
What Kind Of Problems Can EMDR Treat?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post-traumatic
stress. However, clinicians reported success using EMDR in treatment of the
Sexual and/or Physical Abuse
The above information is extracted from EMDRIA documentation. For additional
information you may contact EMDRIA directly at:
EMDRIA, PO Box 140824 Austin, Texas 78714-0824
Telephone: (512) 302-9943 Fax: (512) 451-0329