What is EMDR therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is an integrated therapy approach for treating trauma and psychological stress that was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 and is supported by research. EMDR Therapy allows people to process events that have become “stuck in time” and lead to symptoms in the “here and now” (i.e., the present). The symptoms a person experiences now are often the result of past experiences that have not been processed adequately and integrated in the brain. In other words, your past experiences continue to affect you today.
That is because the brain’s natural way of processing information is blocked during times of stress and trauma. EMDR seems to unlock memories of past distressing events so that normal information processing is resumed and the person no longer relives the images, sensory experiences (sounds, smells, sights, etc), feelings, and negative self-beliefs (e.g., I’m unlovable, I’m unworthy, I’m not safe) associated with the distressing event. Although people remember what happened, the memory of the event becomes less distressing, current symptoms decrease, and they are better able to function and cope in the present.
Dual attention stimuli, such as eye movements and tapping, are used to ‘unlock’ the brain and allow processing to occur as a person focuses on a disturbing memory. Information related to the trauma or distressing event is accessed through thoughts (images and self-beliefs), emotions, and body sensations in a structured format that allows a person to work with the memory. Therapists introduce techniques to reduce discomfort and tolerate emotions during preparation work prior to processing memories.