EMDR is a treatment approach developed by Dr Francine Shapiro in the United States in 1987.
Research studies have shown that EMDR can be successful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, intrusive thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks associated with these difficulties.
While researchers are still not certain about the specific physiological changes that occur during EMDR, they believe it has something to do with activating parts of the brain responsible for processing and integrating memories. The assumption is that this involves a similar process to that which occurs during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleeping.
‘Ordinary’ life events seem to be processed into our memories and become an integrated part of our life stories. When a trauma occurs it seems to upset the balance of the brain’s information processing system. This imbalance prevents the negative event from becoming an ordinary memory and the traumatic event seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts and feelings. The eye movements, sounds or taps used in EMDR seem to activate the nervous system (just as in dreaming) and allow the brain to process the negative experience.
Some people experience a high level of emotion and physical sensations that accompany the distressing unresolved memories which are being reprocessed. EMDR does not cause these sensations, rather it is your own body and brain “digesting” and releasing the old memory in its attempt to heal and integrate itself. Just as when you cut your finger your body works to heal itself, so it is with emotional and psychological wounds. For some people, other material, in the forms of memories, thoughts, flashbacks, feelings and dreams may continue to emerge between sessions. This is normal and will be addressed throughout therapy sessions. Whilst these kinds of experiences can cause upset for some in the short-term, ultimately EMDR has been demonstrated to reduce distress and resolve trauma eventually.
EMDR is also used for a wide range of problems including anxiety disorders and in performance enhancement.
EMDR is a client-centered approach and it is you that is always in control. If you have any questions then do not hesitate to contact Psychology Sussex to discuss things further.