What is EMDR?

By March 19, 2015

Today’s psychology focus is on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). You will benefit from this approach if:

  • You like eye contact and light touch.
  • You enjoy or would like to learn guided imagery.
  • You enjoy or would like to learn how to identify feelings as expressed in the body.
  • You desire a tool that you can use to deal with intense emotions.
  • You have experienced child abuse, a violent assault, or war.

emdrWhat is EMDR?

Francine Shapiro conducted scientific research with trauma victims and published her work in 1989. Based on her findings, she created EMDR as a way to assist individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The basic assumption of EMDR is that negative thoughts, imagery, feelings and behaviors are the result of unprocessed memories. You do not have to re-experience the traumatic event to “work through it.” Rather inner “resources” already within you are identified and leveraged to change your experience. Traumatic events can cut you off from fully accessing this reservoir of wisdom, joy, and emotional resources that enables the relaxation response in the body.

In EMDR, the distressing memory is balanced by the restorative influence of already existing inner emotional resources. Resources can include empowering memories, spiritual resources like spiritual experiences, teachers, or an image of your higher self, and uplifting resources like favorite things, experiences of awe and wonder, or loving memories.

EMDR strategically uses these positive experiences to generate new neuro-pathways in the body by creating what are referred to as “neuro-nets” that help to reduce the impact of the negative pathways established in the brain as a result of the traumatic event.

What happens in an EMDR counseling session?

The therapy is organized in eight phases during a treatment session:

  • history and treatment planning – an exploration of the traumatic event and a discussion what memories to target or treatment
  • preparation – teaches you relaxation techniques to use on your own
  • assessment – visualize the disturbing event (and associated thoughts) and rate the level of distress plus, do this same protocol for positive experiences and thoughts (the development of resources)
  • desensitization – the use of tapping (knees or shoulders) or bi-lateral eye movement (following a small flashing light) while you think about the disturbing event
  • installation – holding in your mind a positive new thought while tapping or eye movement continues
  • body scan – use of more tapping or eye movement to address any residue in the body
  • closure – reflection and digestion on the session, suggestions for follow up between sessions including use of new techniques learned in session
  • re-evaluation – review the work in the prior session

Resources for further exploration

Can You Benefit from EMDR Therapy?

Information and links to finding EMDR Therapists

The Evidence on EMDR, New York Times

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