Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful and highly effective psychotherapy approach that has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress. EMDR was developed in 1987 by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro and was first used to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in combat veterans, but has since evolved to treat a wide variety of problems in the civilian population as well. EMDR works much more quickly than traditional talk therapy because it makes use of your brain's natural information processing system to access and "digest," or process, disturbing memories, distressing emotions, and negative beliefs that can develop after traumatic events. In my practice, I have helped many people overcome traumatic past experiences and life problems with EMDR.
When a person becomes very distressed, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. A particularly stressful experience can become frozen in time, stuck, or "undigested" in the brain . Remembering the traumatic event may feel as bad as going through it the first time, because the images, sounds, smells and feelings connected to the event haven’t changed. These upsetting memories can have an ongoing negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and relates to other people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. After a successful EMDR session, traumatic memories are metabolized and the brain begins to process information normally. A person can then think about the event without distress, as something that happened in the past, and that is no longer relived through the painful images, sounds and feelings once associated with the event. EMDR works in a similar way 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. EMDR can be a very effective alternative to traditional talk therapy for processing distressing memories - after all, there is only so much talking one can do.
At least one session is generally required for me to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment for you. I will discuss EMDR more fully at that appointment and provide an opportunity to answer any questions you may have about the method. Once we have both agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem you are experiencing, the actual EMDR therapy may begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from 50 - 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances and the amount of previous trauma you may have had will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary. EMDR can be used either as a separate treatment all by itself or within a standard talk therapy, as an adjunctive treatment. Once I have gotten to know you and your specific circumstances, I can make recommendations about which course would work best.
During EMDR, I will work with you to identify a specific problem, trauma or anxiety as the focus of the treatment session. You will then call to mind the disturbing issue or event; what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs you currently hold about that event. I facilitate the directional movement of the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while you focus on the disturbing material. You just notice whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control the content. I continue sets of eye movements until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about yourself; for example, “I did the best I could.” Each person processes information uniquely, based on their personal experiences and values. During EMDR you may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session most people report a great reduction in the level their disturbance.
Many controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms, such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the World Health Organization (WHO), 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 agencies. The national registry (NREPP) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), cites EMDR as evidence based practice for the treatment of PTSD, anxiety and depression symptoms. Research has also shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment.
I have used EMDR to successfully treat:
*some information adapted from EMDR International Association
For research, articles, videos and more information on EMDR, visit: