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Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy (EMDR)


EMDR is a therapy that was developed in the late eighties by Francine Shapiro.  It was first used to work with combat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and this has quickly come to be useful in supporting people heal from extremely stressful or traumatic experiences. These experiences exist along spectrums of intensity, frequency, and longevity and some of the symptoms it can address are flashbacks, anxiety, anger, addictions, intrusive type thoughts, worrying amonst others. Our brains are remarkably resilient and adaptive; however, when experiences push the brain beyond its natural resiliency, it adapts by moving us into “survival mode” to get us through. Amazingly, we survive these awful experiences, but we often develop problematic, psychological symptoms or harmful coping strategies as a result. EMDR therapy targets these “unprocessed” parts of the traumatic memory and reprocesses them until the problem is resolved and no longer causing significant distress


EMDR therapy looks different than most traditional talk-oriented therapies. Instead of focusing on behaviors and thoughts and relying on verbal-processing to “make sense” of the problem, EMDR therapy accesses more primitive parts of the brain where unprocessed memory is stored and enacts them in the here-and-now. Using eye-movements and other EMDR techniques, the experience is processed through the mind and the body image.

In full transparency, 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. Adverse experiences can become “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.  It is like we file things in an incorrect order, we will file the "A" files in the "Z" files and this does not feel right to us.  When we have completed an EMDR session, it is like the files have been placed back in proper order and it allows us to experience our life from a healthier view or lens.

EMDR research suggests that the therapy has a direct effect on the way 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 or disturbing. EMDR therapy 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.  

If you would like to watch a 8 minute video clip on EMDR please visit this link:

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