What is EMDR?
In 1987, a respected American Clinical Psychologist and Researcher, Dr Francine Shapiro, made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts and feelings under certain conditions. Dr Shapiro studied this scientifically. In the 1989 edition of The Journal of Traumatic Stress, she reported success using EMDR in treating victims of severe trauma. Since then EMDR has developed rapidly, and has been widely researched. It is now used by trained therapists all over the world.
How does EMDR work?
When an individual is traumatised, they experience such strong emotions that it is thought to overwhelm the brain. The brain consequently is unable to cope with, or process information as it does ordinarily. Distressing experiences become ‘frozen in time’. They are stored in the brain in the original ‘raw’ form and can recur as ‘action replays’ or intrusive memories. The person repeatedly relives the original unpleasant event/s. Remembering a trauma may feel as bad as experiencing it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect on the way a person sees themselves, the world and other people. It can affect parts or all of their lives, including their ability to work or study.
EMDR seems to directly influence the way that the brain functions. It helps to restore normal ways of dealing with problems (i.e. information processing). Following successful EMDR treatment, memories of the event are no longer painful when brought to mind. What happened can still be recalled, but it is less upsetting. EMDR appears to mimic what the brain does naturally on a daily basis during dreaming or REM (Rapid Eye Movements) sleep: EMDR can be thought of as an inherently natural therapy which assists the brain in working through distressing material.
Is EMDR effective?
Research studies have shown that EMDR can markedly accelerate the healing process after a traumatic experience and that the effects are long lasting. In fact, there are now more scientifically controlled studies on the treatment of post traumatic stress disorders with EMDR than with any other form of psychological treatment. EMDR is highly effective, often preferred by clients and generally of shorter duration than other treatment methods.