What is EMDR?
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing ( EMDR ) is a form of psychotherapy that was developed to resolve symptoms resulting from disturbing and unresolved life experiences. It uses a structured approach to address past, present, and future aspects of disturbing memories. The approach was developed by Francine Shapiro to resolve the development of trauma-related disorders as resulting from exposure to a traumatic or distressing event, such as rape or military combat. Clinical trials have been conducted to assess EMDR's efficacy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although some clinicians may use EMDR for other problems, its research support is primarily for disorders stemming from distressing life experiences
EMDR uses a structured eight-phase approach and addresses the past, present, and future aspects of the dysfunctionally stored memory. During the processing phases of EMDR, the client attends to the disturbing memory in multiple brief sets of about 15–30 seconds, while simultaneously focusing on the dual attention stimulus (e.g., therapist-directed lateral eye movement, alternate hand-tapping, or bilateral auditory tones). Following each set of such dual attention, the client is asked what associative information was elicited during the procedure. This new material usually becomes the focus of the next set. This process of alternating dual attention and personal association is repeated many times during the session.
EMDR integrates elements of effective psychodynamic, imaginal exposure, cognitive therapy, interpersonal, experiential, physiological and somatic therapies. It also uses the unique element of bilateral stimulation (e.g. eye movements, tones, or tapping). According to Francine Shapiro's theory, when a traumatic or distressing experience occurs, it may overwhelm usual ways of coping and the memory of the event is inadequately processed; the memory is dysfunctionally stored in an isolated memory network.
Psychobiology of Trauma