EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a powerful therapy technique created by Francine Shapiro, PhD, in the late 1980s. It was originally designed to treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder but has since been expanded to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Simply put, EMDR has been scientifically proven to take hurtful experiences from the past, be it 10 years ago or yesterday, and make them no longer hurt. The individual undergoing EMDR is also left with a more positive mindset regarding what happened. In my practice I use EMDR with most of my clients; I have found it to be that successful. At first glance EMDR can appear a little weird and promise results that seem to good to be true, so allow me to explain what it is and why it works.
When we have traumatic or hurtful experiences, the experience can overwhelm our brains data processing ability and thus we can be left with some of the original sensations, thoughts and feelings that happened at the time. This is thought to be why people can have experiences such as still feeling unsafe in cars months after a car accident. Unfortunately, time does not always heal all wounds and this explains why experiences can continue to affect us long after they occur.
But why eye movements? When we are asleep we experience a stage of sleep called rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep. It is during this time that we dream. REM sleep is a major processor or memories and appears to choose hurtful memories to remember as important, likely as a survival mechanism. For example, if a person is injured in a car accident, it would make sense for that person to have a reaction that would lead them to avoid cars. However, these reactions, be they anxiety, depression, anger or other symptoms, are not pleasant and often led to situations that are not ideal (such as having to avoid cars). That’s where EMDR comes in. EMDR can heal us of these hurtful experiences so that they don’t have to affect us anymore.
EMDR has been accepted by a number of organizations, including the Veteran’s Administration and American Psychiatric Association as a top treatment for the treatment of trauma. It has been supported by a large enough number of research studies to have been labeled an evidenced based practice. Clients who agree to have EMDR used in their treatment can be assured that they are receiving a treatment that is supported by research and has been shown to be effective. For more information about EMDR at Counseling Centers of Michigan, click here. For additional EMDR information, click here.
Brian H Taylor