Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a process designed to alleviate distress associated with unpleasant memories. Through eye movement, the activation of the physiological stress response is inhibited in order to process difficult experiences and heal trauma.
When something overwhelming happens it can affect the natural coping mechanisms of our body, which results in the incomplete processing of the experience. These unprocessed memories can cause negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The process of EMDR consists of bilateral stimulation, such as moving the eyes from side to side or tapping on the knees or shoulders, while recalling the images and sensations of these unprocessed memories. This allows the client to reprocess them and put them into a larger experience or perspective, which results in easing the discomfort caused by these memories. A session typically consists of multiple rounds of EMDR. After each round we evaluate the changes and use them to inform the following rounds.
Benefits of EMDR
One of the benefits of EMDR is that you can work with difficult emotions without having to talk about it. This is oftentimes more comfortable for the client, but it also takes away the problem of reinforcing the storyline by repeating it over and over again. EMDR has a long-term healing effect, meaning there is continuous improvement after treatment has stopped.
Although there is still a lot of research being done on the exact underlying biological mechanisms, studies show that suppression of the fear response especially in the amygdala and taxing our working memory are probably the two main ones that make EMDR effective.
It seems to be more effective for dealing with events that happen later in life, as difficult childhood events have an effect on mental and biological development and therefore take longer to heal.
EMDR was discovered in the late 80’s by Francine Shapiro. After obtaining good results with the treatment of PTSD, EMDR is now being successfully applied in the healing of trauma, depression and anxiety.