EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

What is EMDR?
EMDR is an abbreviation for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  It is an innovative form of counseling that links many successful elements of a variety of therapeutic approaches in combination with eye movements or other forms of bi-lateral stimulations.  The eye movements help to effectively stimulate the brain's Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) system, which may generate significant improvements in a short period of time. This therapy can help with both the healing of psychological pain and physical discomfort related to disturbing life experiences, ranging from traumatic events such as accidents, assaults, illness, natural disasters to upsetting childhood experiences that have had a lasting effect on one's life such as depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues.  For many clients, EMDR provides more rapid relief than conventional therapies.

Often, when a person experiences a very distressing event, the memory is not fully processed, and it remains in a "raw" state, so that the original emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations are easily activated.  EMDR is a client-centered approach that appears to mobilize the brain's processing system to resolve the disturbing memory.  During EMDR, the client is able to access other positive or adaptive information, which is then integrated into the memory network.  This resolution of the memory results in the client thinking and feeling differently about the experience.

What is the Research that Supports EMDR?
Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., developed EMDR in 1987 and to date, over 200,000 mental health therapists in 52 countries have been trained.  Hannah Latta has been trained by an EMDRIA Approved Trainer in EMDR Therapy and has completed Part 1 and Part II intensive training, practicum, and is receiving consultation and pursuing certification.  Since 1989, many controlled studies have demonstrated that EMDR is one of the most efficacious treatments available for posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.  Results included significant decreases in a wide range of symptoms and/or the elimination of the diagnosis for most clients.  Several recent research studies, conducted in different laboratory settings, have found that eye movements consistently decreased the vividness and emotional strength of memory images.  It is likely that this effect contributes to information processing by decreasing the power of the negative memory and making it easier for the client to access more positive or adaptive information.

What Happens in EMDR?
During an EMDR session, the clinician works with the client to identify a specific memory or issue that will become the focus of the treatment session.  The clinician initiates eye movements as the client focuses their attention on the target event and its related image, thoughts, sensations, and emotions.  Once the client is engaged in the experience, he or she is likely to experience various aspects of the initial memory or other memories that are associated with it.  The clinician pauses with the eye movements at regular intervals to ensure that the client is processing adequately on their own.  As the session progresses, clients usually access more positive and adaptive information.  The treatment goal is to eliminate emotional distress and to change related negative beliefs and behaviors.

How Long Does EMDR Therapy Take?
Once the client and clinician have agreed that EMDR is the treatment of choice, the therapy can take anywhere from 1-3 sessions for a single event trauma to a year or more for more complex problems.  A "typical" course of EMDR therapy can be applied as an adjunctive treatment for a client who is already in psychotherapy, or it can be a therapy unto itself.  Ideally, most clients and clinicians prefer EMDR treatment as part of a comprehensive psychotherapeutic approach.

Are there any Precautions?
Yes.  It is important that clients are thoroughly screened for EMDR treatment.  There are many variables to be taken into account when considering EMDR treatment.  The nature of the problem, the emotional stability of the client, the client's history, especially if there is trauma, the medical as well as clinical situation all need to be evaluated.  It is important that the clinician administering EMDR has been formally trained by an EMDRIA approved program and is certified as a practitioner of EMDR by EMDRIA.

How Do You Get More Information on EMDR?
Further information can be obtained by calling the EMDR International Association at 512-451-5200 512-451-5200 or by contacting the website at www.emdria.org.

**The American Psychiatric Association, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, the US Department of Veteran Affairs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Department of Defense, and other professional organizations recommend EMDR Therapy.  Insurance companies also recognize the effectiveness of EMDR as an evidence-based practice.

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