About EMDR


What is EMDR?

EMDR is a therapy proven by research to be effective in the treatment and relief of a wide range of challenges. It is a simple patient-therapist collaboration in which healing can happen rapidly and does not involve the use of drugs or hypnosis.

The acronym EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The development of EMDR began in 1987 by Francine Shapiro. 

What problems are helped by EMDR?

Studies to date show EMDR has a high effectiveness with the following challenges:

*childhood trauma
*physical abuse
*sexual abuse
*verbal abuse
*victims of violent crimes
*victims of natural disasters
*post traumatic stress
*overwhelming fears
*panic attacks
*low self esteem
*performance and test anxiety

EMDR is most effective when used in conjunction with other traditional methods such as using play and art therapy with children. With adults it may mean using cognitive-behavioral or other types of therapy in conjunction with EMDR. EMDR can help strengthen and anchor postitive images, emotions, and thoughts.

How does EMDR take place?

Before EMDR takes place a thorough history will be gathered. Also coping skills and strategies to deal with difficult emotions, thoughts, and memories will be developed and strengthened.

The core of EMDR involves focusing on a pre-selected image or remembered sensation while the therapist guides bi-lateral stimulation (eye movements or tapping). The therapist may or may not at times interject with comments. Unlike other approaches the therapist is a guide in the process simply making sure that processing is taking place.

After each set of eye movements or tapping the client is instructed to just notice whatever  changes occur in the mind and body without having any expectations as there are no right or wrong answers. At the end of each session time will be devoted to exploring the client's experience and preparing for the next session.

What happens during EMDR?

When disturbing experiences happen they are stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, and feelings that accompany them. When a person is very upset the brain seems unable to process the experience in a helpful manner. Therefore, negative thoughts and feelings of the event get "trapped" or stored in the brain in an unhealthy way. Since the brain cannot process these emotions, the experience and/or the accompanying feelings, a person may experience distress in their lives.

The EMDR technique does two very important tasks. First, it "unlocks" the negative memories and emotions. Second, it helps the brain successfully process the experience. As a result, EMDR makes it possible to gain a new perspective that allows  empowerment rather than powerlessness in relation to past, present, and future experiences.

How does EMDR work?

Simply put: we don't know. There are several theories as to how EMDR my work. EMDR may help the brain use the left and right hemisphere to better process experiences. Perhaps EMDR taps into mechanisms used in learning and memory now identified by REM stage of sleep.

What type of training is needed to use EMDR?

EMDR training may only take place for licensed mental health professionals who have extensive clinical experience. Anyone offering EMDR services has received EMDR specific training. Additional information in regards to EMDR may be found at www.emdr.com

The following therapists are trained to provide EMDR therapy: Amanda Starr, Amy Joseph, Peg Boyle, Katherine Koss and Gail Marhewka.

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