Whilst developing EMDR, the psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro, discovered that bi-lateral stimulation of the brain (stimulating one side of the brain and then the other by moving ones focus from side to side) whilst recalling a traumatic event, is able to help the client to process the event in the brain, in such a way that it is able to subsequently release the trauma. Since its initial discovery more than 30 years ago, this technique has gained international recognition as a highly effective method for healing trauma.

How does EMDR work?

When a person experiences a disturbing event, the brain often automatically protects a person from being overwhelmed by physical and emotional pain, by shutting off parts of the conscious memory. However, given that the trauma remains unresolved, it continues to subconsciously affect the person, often in an unsatisfactory way, inappropriately influencing life decisions. In other words the trauma or event remains stuck in the nervous system, in conjunction with the accompanying sensory memories of the event, such as: sights, smells, sounds, sensations, as well as the associated feelings and beliefs that have come about as a result of the experience.

When the mind replays these sensations and experiences in an attempt to have them released, they are often experienced as flashbacks, or nightmares, almost as an attempt to heal the experience through re-play. This often results in people doing things that they don’t want to be doing, or reacting to situations in ways that they would not really like to either. So the mind continuously tries to resolve past experiences (that are often unconscious), by replaying them, in a similar way we tend to repeat the behavioral patterns of our parents, often despite our best intentions not to.

The critical issue here is that people establish beliefs at the time of trauma, eg “I am not safe”, or “I am not good enough” or “ I have no choice” which generally continue to haunt them and “run their lives” as a result of the trauma/experience. Simply put, “What we believe to be true, will perpetuate”.

What is the process of EMDR like?

The EMDR process is a multi-step process, which begins with the initial interview with a therapist who identifies what the triggering issues are (past, present and future), followed by a need to understand the history and background of the individual, where-after the client is taught some self-management and calming techniques. At this stage a past event or current trigger is selected by the therapist for processing, which involves the client having to momentarily focus on the trigger whilst simultaneously moving their eyes from side to side under the guidance of the therapist. Usually, during this time, clients generally experience the emergence of new thoughts, memories, insights and new understandings and perspectives. During the process, negative feelings and beliefs associated with the trauma are usually released, whilst more positive and productive beliefs are encouraged.

EMDR has been used highly effectively for the eliminating of the consequences of traumas, such as sexual abuse, molestation, accidents, abandonment etc.

Effectiveness of EMDR

Extensive research continues to be done on the efficacy of EMDR. Below is some information extracted from the EMDR association web-site.

“EMDR is a therapy that is listed in the new Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defence Practice Guidelines "A" category as "highly recommended" for the treatment of trauma.

It has received a high level of recommendation by the American Psychiatric Association and by the mental health departments of Israel, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Sweden and more.

EMDR is also listed as an effective form of therapy, backed by research, on a new National Institute of Mental Health sponsored website.”

For further information please refer to: http://www.emdrnetwork.org/