What is EMDR?
The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA.org, 2010) definition of EMDR therapy is as follows:
“Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a method of psychotherapy that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.”
While trauma is typically associated with experiences such as rape, war, natural disasters, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it also applies to other negative experiences an individual hasn't been able to resolve from the past. These experiences might include events such as:
*sexual, physical or emotional abuse *pervasive negative self talk
*sexual assault *divorce or relationship breakup
*an eating disorder *death of a significant person or pet
*motor vehicle accident *witnessing a crime
*phobias *panic/ anxiety
Alternately, and EMDR therapist can use EMDR therapy to instill positive beliefs which can aid in performance enhancement (public speaking, sports, etc.)
How Does EMDR Therapy work?
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works 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 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 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.