Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)


What Is EMDR?

The brain normally processes experiences to adaptive resolution. Memories of processed experiences provide information that guides responses to similar events in the future.

However, if we experience threats with intense emotions and are unable to escape or overcome them, our brain may be unable to process the experiences to adaptive resolution. That is especially problematic when those events occur during childhood and disrupt our normal development or the events are life-threatening.

Then, when we encounter events that resemble or symbolize the original events, we are likely to react as if they are happening again.

Eye movements stimulate the brain to process memories, perhaps similar to what occurs during REM sleep, and EMDR enables the brain to process unprocessed memories to adaptive resolution.

EMDR also addresses disturbing reactions to similar current events and develops skills and abilities people need to respond effectively to similar events in the future.

What Is The Goal Of EMDR?

The goal of EMDR is cure.

First, EMDR eliminates ongoing emotional, mental and physical disturbances caused by incompletely and unprocessed memories.

Second, EMDR eliminates disturbances caused by current events that resemble the original event.

Third, EMDR develops skills and abilities people need to respond effectively to similar events in the future.

How Long Does It Take For EMDR To Achieve A Cure?

If a single recent event produced the memory that causes the ongoing disturbances, and people have resources they need to respond effectively to similar events in the future, treatment may be relatively brief.

Earlier and multiple events may produce a number of memories that cause ongoing disturbances, and people may not have resources they need to respond effectively, which complicates treatment and may take much longer.

Who Provides EMDR?

EMDR providers are licensed professionals who have undergone extensive training and consultation to insure they administer treatment that is consistent with EMDR procedures and are able to adapt the procedures to people’s individual needs.

What Does EMDR Involve?

EMDR consists of eight phases, beginning with history taking and extending to re-evaluation, and it includes procedures that address past causes of people’s ongoing disturbances, current situations that make them react as if the original threats or losses were happening again, and developing skills and abilities to enable them to respond effectively to similar events in the future. During processing, people attend to past memories, present triggers, and anticipated future events as the therapist guides them in sets of bilateral eye movements, tones or taps. As a result, people’s disturbances are eliminated, what they want to believe about themselves feels completely true and they are physically calm.

Because EMDR both eliminates disturbances and develops and enhances how people want to be in the future, it is also effective in achieving optimal performance in a wide range of activities. Indeed, EMDR enables executives and professionals, as well as athletes and performing artists, to achieve their goals.

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