What is EMDR? Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987. The basis of this treatment is the notion that, like other body systems, our minds process information and memories in a way that is geared towards health. Sometimes, disturbing or traumatic memories reach an adaptive resolution by becoming more functional memories, while other times these memories can be frozen or “unprocessed” in one’s memory. These unprocessed memories can be continually triggered when we experience things that are similar to cues related to the memory (i.e. emotions, images etc.). Not only does a disturbance in processing a traumatic memory prevent new information from being processed correctly, but it may also block access to other positive events that already exist in the memory. EMDR facilitates the adaptive information processing of traumatic events. EMDR has proven to have various advantages over other forms of treatment, such as the ability for the client to process memories without verbally telling her story and lack of between session homework (Rothbaum, Astin & Marsteller, 2005).
What will happen during an EMDR session? After a thorough assessment of the issue at hand, I will ask you questions about a specific memory we are trying to target. We will then use bilateral stimulation, in the form of eye movements or tapping, for a short period. You will then be asked to report back your experience of any changes in thoughts, feelings, images, or sensations. The memory may change in intensity and linked memories may be identified through this process. During EMDR you are fully awake and alert. It is not hypnosis. It is important that you stay present throughout the session and I will help you to do so. The goal of EMDR is to reprocess a memory, not to relive it.
How quickly does EMDR work? This varies from person to person and depends on the issue at hand. EMDR can be done on its own or as a component of more traditional talk therapy. During our initial sessions we can discuss if EMDR is appropriate and how EMDR can be a part of our work together.
Why does EMDR work? There are many reasons those studying EMDR believe it works, although currently no single reason has been identified. EMDR may work because it helps to process trauma in a more detached and less vivid way (Lee et al, 2006, Andrade et al, 1997; Barrocliff et al., 2004, Kavanagh et al., 2001, Sharpley et al, 1996)). Bilateral stimulation also mimics REM sleep and facilitates brain waves that help process memories and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (Propper et al, 2007; Wilson et al., 1996)
Yes! Adjunctive EMDR may be a good option for those already in individual or couples therapy, but who would like to target a specific issue using EMDR. Adjunctive therapy does not replace the primary therapy, but complements it. For this reason, it is important to have input from the primary therapist and to make sure all parties feel comfortable with the arrangement.