What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a powerful new method of doing psychotherapy. It is based on the idea that when a person is very upset, the brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel just as bad as going through it the first time. Such memories have a lasting negative effect on the way a person sees the world and relates to other people. To date, EMDR has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress:
|Post-traumatic stress||Dissociative disorders|
|Panic attacks||Stress reduction|
|Depression over childhood events||Complicated grief|
|Sexual and/or physical abuse||Performance anxiety|
How was EMDR developed?
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shaprio made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thought under certain conditions. Dr. Shaprio studied this effect scientifically and, in 1989, the successful results of her research study where she treated the victims of trauma were published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved through the contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world and is now accepted by the American Psychological Association as an effective treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, EMDR is a set of protocols that incorporate elements from many different treatment approaches and is used to successfully treat a variety of psychological issues.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain functions. Following a successful EMDR session, normal information processing is resumed, so the traumatic images, sounds, and feelings are no longer 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 a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
What is an EMDR session like?
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem to be the focus of the treatment session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about that event. The therapist facilitates by directional movement of the eyes or other bilateral stimulation of the brain 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 experiences 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 one’s self; 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 also discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer any questions about the method. Once therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from 60- 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 as a part of therapy, or as a treatment all by itself.
Does insurance cover EMDR?
If your policy covers standard psychotherapy, it will most likely cover EMDR.
Where can I find out more?
The EMDR International Association is a 501 © (6), non-profit, professional membership organization. The Association’s mission is to “…establish, maintain and promote the highest standards of excellence and integrity in …EMDR… practice, research, and education…”
Female, Age 38, hospital ICU support staff
I have gone through more traumatic events in my life than most people experience in twice my years. In fact, it seems like fiction when I talk about it. I faked my happy a lot of days to get through and perform at life. More than once, I couldn’t fake it enough. This last time, I thought I was going to have to curl up in a ball to save my sanity, my marriage and my job. Read More
Female, RN, age 47
I’ve spent most of my adult life waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow, next week, next month, a new season, next year things will be better. It never was any better. I had some time when I could keep this “thing” at bay and out of nowhere it would raise its ugly head and wipe out the days that I was able to “get through.” Read More
Female, Admin, age 46
I started meeting with Linda because I needed to leave a bad marriage and couldn’t. Things had been going downhill for years, our children were suffering and major depression was my constant companion. Even so, whenever friends, family, and therapists urged me to get out on my own, I would immediately avoid the issue with a lot of fairly lame excuses. I truly believed it was impossible to change the situation because in order to leave the marriage I would have to stand up to my husband, something I was terrified to do. Read More