Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a psychological treatment originally used only for trauma and traumatic loss. EMDR incorporates aspects of cognitive, behavioral, and analytic therapies and allows upsetting life experience to be understood and integrated so that the memory no longer produces symptoms.

What kinds of problems can be treated with EMDR?

Specific protocols have been developed and used successfully for a wide variety of problems. Listed below are some of the typical issues/conditions for which EMDR may be used:

sexual abuse
rape & assault
witness to violence
combat trauma
natural disasters
medical procedure trauma
chronic pain
relationship issues
loss, grief & bereavement
terminal illness
life transitions
pain not associated with a medical condition
personality disorders
car accidents
low self-esteem

EMDR can be used to enhance and strengthen the personality as well as to enhance creativity and performance. It is commonly used to combat performance anxiety in sports and the fine arts. In addition to healing trauma, EMDR may be used to strengthen qualities in the self which are present but weak. EMDR can even assist in preparation for anticipated challenges such as childbirth.

How does EMDR work?

Bilateral stimulation to the brain “jump-starts” the natural information processing system which shuts down during trauma. Bilateral stimulation is used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy techniques and the EMDR protocol. SPECT brain-scan imaging shows that primitive brain centers are active during the re-experiencing of disturbing memory. These traumatic memories trigger painful responses in the present. When disturbing memory is processed, as in EMDR therapy, the brain becomes activated in the language centers and clients report relief. The content of the memory has not changed, but the memory is felt to be in the past and the painful emotion is gone. EMDR Consultation.

An EMDR consultation can be used to move someone through an impasse in treatment and revitalize the therapy. Clients are better able to re-engage in treatment when the underlying issues inhibiting progress are clear to them. EMDR works well as an adjunct to most therapies, i.e. traditional psychotherapy,

movement therapy, massage, any variety of somatic therapies, acupuncture or chiropractic.

What is an EMDR session like?

EMDR is very similar to other forms of psychotherapy, excepting that periods of bilateral stimulation follow each time the client is asked to remember the disturbing emotions, negative beliefs, upsetting images and bodily sensations associated with the memory. For many, EMDR therapy is the first time that present day symptoms are experienced as directly linked to an old memory or emotional conflict.

How long is brief therapy with EMDR?

Clients with simple single event trauma find relief in 1-12 sessions. In the case of long-standing repetitive trauma, such as childhood abuse, the length of treatment will vary. For clients with complex histories, EMDR may take months or even years. When used properly, EMDR will shorten the overall length of time in therapy.

Does EMDR work with children?

Children respond well to EMDR treatment. Children enjoy the hand-held pulsers for bilateral stimulation. EMDR may be added to already existing forms of child psychotherapy to enhance processing.

What research supports EMDR?

EMDR is the most well researched psychological treatment for posttraumatic stress. A bibliography of research may be found at the EMDR Institute & the EMDRIA web sites:

EMDR Institute
Pacific Grove, CA 93950-6010

EMDR International Association
PO Box 141925
Austin, Texas 78714-5200

Virginia Center for Neurofeedback, Attachment & Trauma
420 Third Street NE
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

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