Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

bush of bright eyesMore than two million people in the United States have successfully undergone EMDR treatment and the success rate has been overwhelming.In the UK presently, many Harley Street mental health consultants are using this form of treatment with great success.

It is an extremely effective treatment for people, children as well as adults, who have had traumatic experiences. It is also helpful for a variety of ^ emotional and behavioural problems in adults and children.

EMDR is an acronym for an innovative clinical treatment originated and developed the Californian clinical psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro in 1987. Shapiro recalls having fortuitously “discovered” this technique when e took a stroll in a park between the trees; sunlight was flickering intense and brilliant sun-rays. She found that rapid back-and-forth eye movements reduced her own anxiety and thereafter Shapiro applied this procedure to her own clients with anxiety disorders and she claims to have met with remarkable success.

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?

EMDR is effective in treating individuals who have experienced psychological difficulties arising from traumatic experiences, such as assault, road traffic accidents, war trauma, torture, natural or man-made disasters, sexual abuse and childhood neglect. EMDR is also increasingly used to treat complaints, which are not necessarily trauma-related, such as panic disorder, phobias, performance anxiety, self-esteem issues and other anxiety-related disorders.

EMDR is a complex method of psychotherapy, which integrates many of the successful elements of a range of therapeutic approaches in combination with eye movements or other forms of alternative dual attention stimulation, such as alternative hand-tapping or alternative audio tones. These alternatives seemingly appear to stimulate the brain’s information processing system. During EMDR treatment, the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses, while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus.

EMDR appears to facilitate the accessing of the traumatic memory network and the information is adaptively processed with new associations being made between the disturbing memory and more adaptive memories or information. This in turn, leads to a more complete information processing, alleviation of emotional and physiological distress, and development of cognitive insights.

EMDR is a three-pronged approach involving processing of:

  • past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction
  • present circumstances that elicit distress
  • future templates dealing with potentially distressing situations in a more adaptive manner

How Does EMDR Work?

No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works; however, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time, because the images, sounds, smells and feelings have not changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.

EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You will still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting.
Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.

What Kind of Problems Can EMDR Treat?

Although scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress disorder, some therapists have reported success using EMDR for some conditions such as:

  • panic attack
  • complicated grief
  • phobias
  • pain disorders
  • stress reduction
  • addictions

One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate form of treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method.

Once the therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin.

A typical EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary.

EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.

© 2012 – 2016, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.

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