"Traumatic experiences may have happened long ago, and we may not recognize how much they actually affected us. But the negative emotions, behaviors, beliefs and sensations that cause chronic problems generally can be tracked back to these unprocessed memories. In that way, the past stays present. EMDR can help you make sense of the trauma-based symptoms (like anxiety, panic attacks, sadness, anger/rage, phobias) and identify their cause."
-Dr. Francine Shapiro from her book, "Getting Past Your Past"
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing is a psychotherapy technique that helps a person see disturbing or traumatic memories in a new, less distressing way. By reframing the negative experience, EMDR allows people to heal more quickly than with more traditional forms of counseling.
When a person goes through a traumatic experience or very distressing event, their brain cannot always process information normally. That one experience can leave memories of intense emotions, sights, and sounds that can trigger the person, causing them to relive the event again and again. That’s where EMDR comes in.
EMDR is a short-term therapy that helps the brain process traumatic events so it doesn’t continually have such distressing effects on the young person. EMDR uses rapid eye movements, similar to those that occur when we sleep during REM cycle, to stimulate healing in the brain while the youth focuses on recalling the event. Since this process occurs under the care of an EMDR counselor, it gives the young person a place to safely review their traumatic experience, challenge it from a different perspective and gain new healing insights.
One study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions.
EMDR therapy has been so widely researched that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by several organizations including:
Extensive research shows that EMDR therapy is effective in treating the “every day” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. In fact, EMDR is so widely used and accepted that over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.
How EMDR Works:
During the sessions, the clinician helps the client identify which memory or experience to focus on first. The client is then asked to bring their attention to certain aspects of the event and to use their eyes to track the therapist's hand as it moves back and forth across the client's field of vision. During this process, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and internal associations are activated and the client begins to process the traumatic experience.
Once complete, the meaning of the painful event is transformed on an emotional level. EMDR helps clients accelerate the emotional and intellectual process of dealing with these memories and leaves them feeling empowered and able to heal more efficiently.