I keep referring to EMDR and haven’t yet really explained what that means. The following information regarding Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is quoted from literature entitled “What is EMDR” published by the EMDR International Association in 2004:
“HOW WAS EMDR DEVELOPED?
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions. Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically and in a 1989 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, she reported success using EMDR to treat victims of trauma. Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved through the contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world. Today, EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.
HOW DOES EMDR WORK?
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy work neurobiologically or in the brain. 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 haven’t 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 day 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 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.
BUT DOES EMDR REALLY WORK?
Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreased/eliminates the symptoms of PTSD for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress, as have the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and government agencies. Research has shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment. For further references, a bibliography of research may be found through EMDR International Association’s web site, www.emdria.org.
WHAT IS THE ACTUAL EMDR SESSION LIKE?
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts an beliefs are currently held about that event. The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eyes or other bilateral stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. Sets of eye movement are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing, and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self; for example, “I did the best I could.” During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.
HOW LONG DOES EMDR TAKE?
One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully and provide the opportunity to answer questions about the method. Once therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin.
WHAT KINDS OF PROBLEMS CAN EMDR TREAT?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress disorder. However, clinicians have also reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:
Panic attacks, Complicated grief, Dissociative disorders, Disturbing memories, Phobias, Pain disorders, Eating disorders, Performance anxiety, Stress reduction, Addictions, Sexual and/or physical abuse, Body dysmorphic disorders, Personality disorders”
As you can see, EMDR can be used for all kinds of ‘disorders,’ not just PTSD. Most of what I’ve just shared with you here is fairly dry and clinical. It is an overview more than anything else. Even having been through EMDR treatment, I still have a hard time explaining it. All I know is it WORKED. In my next post I will go through each of the main points brought out and tell you what MY experience was. All I’ll say right now is it was the most difficult and challenging thing I’ve ever had to do AND had I not done it, well, at the very least, I would not be sharing this with you. I never felt that I had a choice in getting treatment for the PTSD I suffered as a result of my attack. Okay, I did have a choice, but I felt like I didn’t. I KNEW I had to do it, however much I disliked it and no matter how hard it was and no matter what else it brought up. The good thing, though, is that it cleared out ALL of the crap that I was still carrying around since childhood.