EMDR was developed in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro for use in the treatment of clients for PTSD and trauma. EMDR has since been proven effective in the treatment of a variety of conditions including: anxiety, phobias, complicated grief, somatic disorders and more.
EMDR ( Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is based on psychotherapy and how traumatic experiences affect the brain. When a traumatic event occurs in a person’s life, often that event becomes frozen in memory. The event is stored as sights, sounds, smells, emotions and body sensations, in linked networks that are organized around the earliest related event and its associated affect. When not processed properly after a traumatic event, these memories are stored as they were at the time of the event, resulting in negative emotions, sensations and beliefs which can be triggered in current day-to-day situations. (Shapiro, 2001)
Shapiro says, “Reactions that seem irrational are often exactly that. But irrational doesn’t mean that there is no reason for them. It means that the responses come from a part of our brain that is not governed by the rational mind. The automatic reactions that control our emotions come from neural associations within our memory networks that are independent of our higher reasoning power.” EMDR addresses how the brain processes those memories, so they may have a lessened response when triggered. “In general, the basis of the suffering is the way our memories of past experiences are stored in the brain and this can be changed. Happily, appropriately stored memories are also the basis of joy and mental health.” (Shapiro, 2012)
EMDR utilizes bilateral stimulation (eye movements, gentle tapping, alternating lights or sounds) to activate the brain’s information processing system so the old memories can then be digested. What is useful is learned, what is useless is discarded. The memory is now stored in a way that is no longer maladaptive and damaging. (Shapiro, 2012)
For more information on Dr. Francine Shapiro and how EMDR was realized as a therapy treatment, please visit the resources below:
EMDR Institute. (2004). What is EMDR?
EMDR Institute. (2004). History of EMDR.
EMDR Institute. (2004). Frequently Asked Questions.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures. Francine Shapiro, PhD. Guilford Press, New York, 2001 (2nd ed.)
Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy. Francine Shapiro, PhD. Rodale, New York, 2012.