"Something changed the first time I had EMDR and if I could put one word to it ... it would be hope." -Anonymous
EMDR is extensively researched and proven effective for treatment of trauma by the American Psychiatric Association, World Health Organization, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, US. Department of Health and Human Services, and others. EMDR is a non-drug, non-hypnosis therapeutic procedure to treat anxiety, depression, guilt, anger and post traumatic responses.
EMDR treatment uses a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. As EMDR treatment is a mental health intervention, it should only be offered by properly trained and licensed mental health clinicians.
I am an EMDR Treatment Certified therapist and have received extensive training, consultation and regular recertification through the EMDRA International Association and expert clinicians associated with EMDRIA. EMDRIA does not condone or support indiscriminate uses of EMDR such as a "do-it-yourself" virtual therapy.
EMDR is a type of therapy used to help people get past whatever is causing them difficulties, so they can become more present and enjoy life. Like other approaches to therapy, we talk about what is happening in your life about what-is-working, what-is-not working, we explore practical solutions and go one step further. By using EMDR processing to work directly with the limbic (emotion based) areas of your brain, we let your brain change the way emotional information is stored. Because new neural-networks are linked during EMDR processing, the brain becomes more open in its ability to find creative solutions to what seemed like unsolvable problems. In addition, because of reduced anxiety, due to the emotional desensitization related to EMDR treatment, life starts to feel better.
During EMDR, we re-visit unpleasant experiences, and awaken thoughts, images, body sensations and negative beliefs. As we do that, we use ‘bilateral stimulation’ (eye-movements, sound or tapping) to let the brain figure out its own way to get resolution with bad feelings, negative thoughts and uncomfortable body sensations.
Following EMDR, people experience and recognize the personal advantages gained from a better balance between emotions and thoughts, becoming more emotionally mature, more relaxed, as confusion lessens and thoughtful clarity increases. In just a few EMDR treatments (which are done after an intake and history gathering) you can begin to realize the following benefits:
Scientific research has established EMDR treatment as effective for post-traumatic stress. Clinicians have also reported success using EMDR with treatment of the following conditions:
Panic Attacks, Complicated Grief, Dissociative Disorders, Disturbing Memories
Phobias, Pain Disorders, Performance Anxiety, Stress Reduction, Addictions
Sexual and/or Physical Abuse, Body Dysmorphic Disorders, Personality Disorders
Note: My practice is focused primarily on Clients expressing concern with anxiety, depression, fear, trauma and overwhelming emotions.
How was EMDR developed?
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions. Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically and, in 1989, she reported success using EMDR to treat victims of trauma in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved through the contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world. Today, EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.
How does EMDR work?
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes "frozen in time," and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
How long does EMDR take?
One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method. Once therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary. EMDR may be used within a standard "talking" therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.
Does EMDR treatment really work?
Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies. Research has also shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment.
What are EMDR clients saying?
I was a member of the Canadian Army for over 20 years. I suffered from OSI (operational stress injury), depression, and the loss of my daughter and wife killed by a drunk driver. For over a year of treatment and work on my part I have finally found some peace of mind, My anger and depression had lowered to a manageable level. Today, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.... I know that this treatment EMDR is by far the best I ever received in the mental health field, and the great thing is no meds.
Thank you, G.C.
This is just a note to let you know about how EMDR has changed my little girl. We started therapy in November 2005, and we have had 8 sessions so far. She is 6 years old and has had severe symptoms of PTSD from being abused. Although regular therapy had been a little successful, her progress was slow and arduous. Now, through EMDR my daughter seems happier, and her "fits" (aggressive rages) have been significantly reduced. Even though we are still in EMDR therapy, I could not wait to tell you how much we think this therapy has helped our precious daughter. Nothing we have tried was this successful.
R. A. Colorado
A few years ago I underwent EMDR. I was skeptical, of course. At this point in time, however, I see that it saved my marriage, my sanity and my relationship with my children. I was suffering from PTSD after experiencing much loss and never even realized that's what stood in the way of a healthy life. It's a wonderful treatment and more people should be informed about it. I was lucky to run across it by accident.
Read EMDRIA's Clinical Definition
EMDRIA Definition of EMDR Date of adoption:
5/26/03, 10/18/03; Revised 10/25/09, 06/23/11, 12/07/11, 2/25/12 1.0A.
Purpose of Definition – This definition serves as the foundation for policy development and implementation of EMDRIA’s programs in the service of its mission. This definition is intended to support consistency in EMDR training, standards, credentialing, continuing education, and clinical application, while fostering the further evolution of EMDR through a judicious balance of innovation and research. This definition also provides a clear and common frame of reference for EMDR clinicians, consumers, researchers, the media and the general public.
1.0B. Definition - EMDR is an evidence-based psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, successful outcomes are well-documented in the literature for EMDR treatment of other psychiatric disorders, mental health problems, and somatic symptoms. The model on which EMDR is based, Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), posits that much of psychopathology is due to the maladaptive encoding of and/or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences. This impairs the client’s ability to integrate these experiences in an adaptive manner. The eight-phase, three-pronged process of EMDR facilitates the resumption of normal information processing and integration. This treatment approach, which targets past experience, current triggers, and future potential challenges, results in the alleviation of presenting symptoms, a decrease or elimination of distress from the disturbing memory, improved view of the self, relief from bodily disturbance, and resolution of present and future anticipated triggers.
BI. Foundational Sources and Principles for Evolution - Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing model, guides clinical practice, explains EMDR’s effects, and provides a common platform for theoretical discussion. The AIP model provides the framework through which the eight phases and three prongs (past, present, and future) of EMDR are understood and implemented. The evolution and elucidation of both mechanisms and models are ongoing through research and theory development.
BII. Aim of EMDR - In the broadest sense, EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach intended to treat psychological disorders, to alleviate human suffering and to assist individuals to fulfill their potential for development, while minimizing risks of harm in its application. For the client, EMDR treatment aims to achieve comprehensive treatment safely, effectively and efficiently, while maintaining client stability.
BIII. Framework - Through EMDR, resolution of traumatic and disturbing adverse life experiences is accomplished with a unique standardized set of procedures and clinical protocols which incorporates dual focus of attention and alternating bilateral visual, auditory and/or tactile stimulation. This process activates the components of the memory of disturbing life events and facilitates the resumption of adaptive information processing and integration. The following are some of the AIP tenets which guide the application of EMDR, i.e., planning treatment and achieving outcomes:
BIIIa. Adverse life experiences can generate effects similar to those of traumatic events recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (APA, 2000) for the diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trigger or exacerbate a wide range of mental, emotional, somatic, and behavioral disorders. Under optimal conditions, new experiences tend to be assimilated by an information processing system that facilitates their linkage with already existing memory networks associated with similarly categorized experiences. The linkage of these memory networks tends to create a knowledge base regarding such phenomena as perceptions, attitudes, emotions, sensations and action tendencies.
 Primary resources, EMDR Consultants Jordan Shafer, Brittne Lee and EMDRIA