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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach to psychotherapy developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro. EMDR has shown to accelerate information processing and healing from difficulties. Dr Shapiro discovered the usefulness of EMDR one day when she was walking through the park and thinking about a disturbing experience. Accidentally, she realized that she was moving her eyes back and forth as she was processing this experience. She also realized that she did not feel as negatively impacted by it as before. She began to study the effects of eye movements on others with traumatic experiences and the results indicated the people were working through these issues more effectively and in a shorter period of time than traditional therapy.


While Dr. Shapiro’s original discovery involved eye movements, we now know that activation of the right and left hemispheres through any bilateral stimulation can be effective. These may include eye movements, back and forth hand taps/stimulation, or back and forth auditory tones.


What is it?

How does it work?

When we have a traumatic experience or any stressful past event, it is believed that the rational parts of our brain shut down during that experience. The emotional driven parts of our brain and our survival instincts become activated. These strong emotions may interfere with our ability to fully process the incident and therefore, this experience may become “frozen” or locked in the emotional part of our brain. We may then be triggered in our daily lives by certain experiences, smells, sensations, etc.

The bilateral stimulation in EMDR is believed to help the various parts of our brain to communicate with each other more effectively so that we can unlock or unfreeze this experience and process it and resolve it. The bilateral stimulation produced in EMDR is thought to be similar to the eye movements that happen when we dream in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. When we dream, our eyes move back and forth under our eyelids. This is believed to help with processing experiences that happen in our daily lives. Through EMDR the memory will not be erased, but we will be able to access more positive ways of re-framing the experience and release negative emotions associated with the experience.

EMDR in the News

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