What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. EMDR was discovered by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987 for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder and is guided by the Adaptive Information Processing model.
The Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) theory is a model that describes how memories are processed and stored in the brain. The process may be adaptive (typical memories), or it may be maladaptive, as in the case of traumatic memories or events. The AIP model considers symptoms of PTSD and other disorders to result from past disturbing experiences that continue to cause distress because the memory was not adequately processed. These unprocessed memories are understood to contain the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and physical sensations that occurred at the time of the event. When the memories are triggered these stored disturbing elements are experienced and cause the symptoms of PTSD and/or other disorders. Instead of focusing on altering these disturbing emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and responses, EMDR it focuses directly on the memory, and is intended to change the way the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the problematic symptoms.
How is EMDR different than other therapy?
Unlike traditional talk therapy or other trauma focused therapy, EMDR does not include extended exposure to the distressing memory, detailed descriptions of the trauma, challenging of dysfunctional beliefs or homework assignments. Instead, EMDR incorporates the use of eye movements and other forms of rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation, such as music or taps. While clients briefly focus on their traumatic memory and simultaneously experience bilateral stimulation (BLS). As a result of the process, the vividness and emotion of the memory are reduced.
EMDR therapy consist of eight-phases including:
Phase 1: History-taking
Phase 2: Preparing the client
Phase 3: Assessing the target memory
Phases 4-7: Processing the memory to adaptive resolution
Phase 8: Evaluating treatment results
Processing of a specific memory is generally completed within one to three processing sessions (Phases 4-7).
Watch the video below to learn more about how EMDR is used to help address trauma trapped in our body.