+ What does EMDR stand for?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

+ What is EMDR?

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that helps people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that results from painful or traumatic life experiences.

These can be small or large, simple or complicated.

+ Why is it called EMDR?

EMDR was discovered by chance by Francie Shapiro in the 1980’s.

On a walk Francine realized that the thoughts around a disturbing memory she had had suddenly disappeared. Fascinated by this, she started paying close attention to what she doing.

She realized that when she brought up distressing memories her eyes started moving back and forward. By chance, she realized that her Eye Movement was the reason she become desensitized to her disturbing memories.

She started off with EMD (Eye Movement Desensitization) and later added the R for Reprocessing. Her further studies realized the therapy is not just about desensitizing but also reprocessing the events and feelings as a whole.

She later stated that she would have just called it “Reprocessing Therapy”, but that name stuck after so many years.

+ Does EMDR Work?

EMDR Infographic

EMDR has been widely researched as effective for PTSD and trauma with up to 100% effectiveness for single trauma and 77% effective for those with multiple traumas.

+ Why would EMDR be more effective than talk therapy?

EMDR allows for your brain to go deeper and work through more than traditional talk therapy can.

It allows for your brain to experience a more thorough healing and become “unstuck”. This is achieved by helping your brain make more connections than talk therapy.

EMDR does not mean that you won’t engage with your therapist as in ‘talk therapy’. In fact, talk therapy is used in conjunction with EMDR.

You and your therapist will talk about what comes up for you during your EMDR processing.

+ What does ‘eye movement’ have to do with it? **

There has been major leaps in the understanding of neurobiology, the full understanding of why it works is still being researched.

At this point, the best explanation relates to the eye movement we naturally make to process information when we are sleeping.

When in a deep dream state our eye’s make the same movement that is used in EMDR, This movement is called REM sleep. This eye movement creates ‘Bilateral stimulation’ in the brain.

+ What is Bilateral Stimulation?

It was eventually discovered that eye movement is not the only way to allow the brain to process information.

The eye movement actually creates movement between the left and right hemisphere of the brain. This back in forward process, or bilateral movement in the brain, is believed to be what is required for processing and desensitization

This Bilateral stimulation can be achieved with the traditional eye movements, but also with touch and sound.

The therapist will either tap on a clients knees (if they are comfortable) or use EMDR pulsers that they hold in their hands.

For auditory stimulation the client wears headphones that make alternating beeps from left to right ear.

+ How does EMDR work?

But how does it work?

Once a negative memory is stored in your long term memory it can bother your for quite a long time. The disturbing memory can keep coming back unintentionally and can express itself in negative feelings like “i’m not good enough” or “im not safe”.

By accessing your ‘long term memory’ of this experience we bring the memory into your ‘short term memory’, or what is also called your ‘working memory’ while focusing on this memory the healing eye movement (or bilateral stimulation) is applied allowing your brain to process information.

As the emotional information has a chance to be processed eventually the memory starts to lose its emotional charge and becomes distant.

+ Is EMDR a form of hypnosis?

No, EMDR does not involve hypnosis. The goal of hypnosis is to have the persons attention so focused that while in a state of hypnosis, anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. This is not the case in EMDR, in EMDR you are aware of what is going on around you and you are not in an altered state.

+ What is EMDR used on?

EMDR was originally developed to reduce the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Since its origins, EMDR has been expanding its application to other areas and the studies of the effectiveness in these areas are still on going.

Generally speaking EMDR can be used for any disturbing memory and/or negative self belief that still bothers you today.

+ Can EMDR be effective on trauma?

Absolutely. While there are no guarantees in outcome, EMDR was discovered originally for its successful use with PTSD and Trauma.

+ Can EMDR therapy be used on anxiety and depression?

There is ongoing and promising research suggesting that EMDR is helpful in treating anxiety and depression.

+ Can EMDR be used on painful childhood experience such as humiliation/neglect/abuse?

Yes, EMDR can be used to address past childhood pain in general related to neglect and abuse by an adult or parent.

+ Can emdr therapy be used on grief?

Research has shown EMDR is effective for individuals working through grief.

Clients reported developing insight, a positive shift in emotion, increased activity, improved self confidence and a healthier mental relationship with the loved one they have lost.

EMDR is effective with reducing the images around the loss. Additionally, distressing memories were less clear and felt more distant.

+ Would I be a candidate?

If you feel ‘stuck’ on an issue and it causes your discomfort to think about it, there is a good chance that you could be a EMDR candidate.

The only way to know for sure is to schedule an appointment and talk to an EMDR therapist about what you are struggling with.

+ What should I expect?

There is a standard 8 stage protocol for EMDR therapy.

Phase 1: Work with your therapist to go over relevant history and come up with a treatment plan

Phase 2: Work with your therapist to create calming exercises

Phase 3: Select and assess the distressing memory target

Phase 4: Use B.L.S on selected target, therapist will prompt you about every 30 seconds to report back about the materials thats coming up.

Phase 5: Once material is desensitized the Positive beliefs are connected to the target image

Phase 6: Any remaining physiological tension is addressed through a body Scan

Phase 7: Closure happens at the end of the session regardless if the target is not completely desensitized.

Phase 8: Revisit the targets next session

There are other protocols and exercises used depending on information collected during your session. Every client can differ on the time that is required for each phase.

What Kind of Problems Does EMDR Treat?

  • Post traumatic stress

  • Complex trauma

  • Grief / loss of a loved one

  • Flashbacks

  • Nightmares

  • Divorce recovery

  • Self-esteem issues

  • Depression

  • Difficult transitions

  • Difficult childhood

  • Abandonment of a parent

  • Unmet childhood needs

  • Attachment issues

  • Phobias

  • Safety

  • Physical, emotional & sexual abuse

  • Violent crimes

  • Auto accidents

  • Injuries

  • Natural disasters

  • Childhood trauma