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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy approach, originated by Dr. Francine Shapiro (1989, 1995, 2001), that promotes rapid healing from symptoms and emotional distress caused by traumatic or adverse life events.

How EMDR Thinks about Past Experiences and Current Symptoms

Just as the body “knows” how to heal itself from many physical injuries or illnesses, the brain is designed to heal naturally from emotional or psychological injuries. But both systems can be overwhelmed if the injury is too severe. And just as the body sometimes needs assistance to carry out the process of healing, the brain can also be helped to fully resolve some painful experiences. EMDR procedures are designed to access and support the brain’s natural processing and to help it overcome even traumatic psychological experiences.

In some cases, individuals are well aware of the experiences that created their distress and symptoms. In others, they may not see the connection between the symptoms they are suffering now and the original causal experiences. In either case, painful past experiences can trigger intense current disturbance and symptoms, including negative beliefs about the self and disturbing physical sensations. EMDR can help make these connections clear when they are not, and rapidly reduce symptoms and distress associated with them.

Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) provides one of the clearest – but not the only – example of this process. Think of someone who was in a serious car accident and is now panic-stricken when faced with the prospect of driving. It is as if the terror they experienced at the time is “stuck in the nervous system.” Logically, they know the event is over and they survived, but their nervous system does not know. (EMDR therapists believe this is caused by how and where highly disturbing experiences are stored in the brain.) EMDR – sometimes in as few as three sessions for a single-episode trauma – can help the nervous system “catch up,” leaving the person knowing and feeling the event is over, with no residual symptoms of disturbance and able to drive with confidence and without anxiety. The benefits of EMDR go beyond PTSD. It has proven helpful with anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, pathological grief, and pains or sensation that have no discernible medical basis.

EMDR is not appropriate for all clients. It cannot remove problems caused by genetics or organic injury. It can however help resolve secondary problems - the “added-on” distress or symptoms – caused by adverse experiences associated with genetic problems or organic injuries. For example, EMDR cannot “cure” ADHD/ADD, now recognized as biologically based. But it can help with the painful experiences – and resulting low self-esteem, lack of confidence, situational anxiety and discouragement -- often seen when ADHD/ADD goes undiagnosed for years.
EMDR Services

I have been providing EMDR therapy for over 20 years. I am a Certified EMDR Therapist, an EMDRIA Approved Consultant, an EMDR Institute and Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP)/Trauma Recovery Facilitator, and a HAP Trainer. Those titles mean that I am recognized as very knowledgeable and experienced in EMDR. I provide consultation to other therapists on their work with EMDR, and I lead group trainings for therapists who want to learn how to use EMDR in their practices.

Research Support of Treatment Effectiveness

EMDR processing has been shown to rapidly resolve symptoms, including those of PTSD, for single-episode trauma. For multiple or repeated traumatization, resolution of symptoms will occur more rapidly than with many other forms of treatment, but will require somewhat more time, usually corresponding to the amount of traumatization to be addressed.

There are now over 20 “gold-standard” design research studies demonstrating the effectiveness of EMDR therapy for problems related to past traumatic or adverse experiences. EMDR has been recommended as effective to treat trauma or PTSD by the American Psychiatric Association (2004), the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Defense, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2005). In 2013, the World Health Organization recommended EMDR (and/or trauma-focused CBT) for children, adolescents and adults with PTSD. WHO noted that, unlike some other approaches, EMDR does not require: (1) extended exposure to the traumatic material, (2) detailed descriptions of the event(s), (3) direct challenging of beliefs, or (4) homework.