What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is the name given to an innovative method of psychotherapy that was discovered in 1987 by psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro. It has since been shown that EMDR enhances people's ability to resolve unprocessed memories and other life problems, and EMDR protocols have been extensively examined in controlled scientific studies and have been found to be effective for the treatment of specific symptoms and conditions. EMDR is also increasingly being used to enhance performance for people at work in sports and
in the performing arts.
EMDR therapy uses a three pronged protocol: Past Events, Present Triggers and Future Templates. EMDR is a complex method that brings together elements from the major clinical theoretical orientations, including psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioural, client-centered and hypnotic therapies. Although, it might appear in EMDR that it is the effect of the eye movement alone that leads to rapid symptom resolution, it must be understood that eye movement (or alternate taps or tones) is only one phase of an overall eight phase psychotherapy treatment plan in standard EMDR treatment.
HOW DOES EMDR WORK?
In some traumatic situations when a person is overwhelmingly upset, the brain cannot process information as it normally does and the intense emotion experienced at the time of the event becomes 'frozen' and 'locked' in the information processing system. Subsequently present day internal and external reminders of these experiences often trigger a re-experiencing of those sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, body sensations or emotions such that they can feel as intense as when they were first experienced. Those unresolved memories may have a profoundly negative impact on the way a person interacts with the world and relates to other people. Under the influence of such unresolved experiences, behaviour can become constricted and inflexible in order to avoid painful re-experiencing.
EMDR is guided by the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, which is highly applicable in the treatment of a wide range of disorders. Research suggests that by attending to eye movements, auditory tones or hand taps as part of the EMDR procedures, this triggers an innate neurophysiological mechanism known as "the investigatory response" which in turn leads to "adaptive information processing." With successful EMDR treatment, the upsetting experiences are worked through to neutral or postive (adaptive resolution). EMDR assists learning and relearning from the negative experiences to allow clients to incorporate models for adaptive future behaviours.
*(Based on "What Is EMDR" by Andrew M. Leeds - modified by Anthony Smith April 2004)
The EMDR Association of Australia
The EMDR Institute
The EMDR International Association
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