Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR therapy) is an integrative psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro that emphasizes disturbing memories as the cause of psychological difficulties. It is especially associated with the alleviation of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
EMDR is one of only two therapies that have the seal of approval of The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use with individuals who have experienced severe unresolved trauma.
According to Shapiro, when a traumatic or extremely distressing experience occurs it may overwhelm normal cognitive and neurological coping mechanisms. The memory and associated stimuli are inadequately processed and get to be stored in an isolated memory network.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to process these distressing memories, reducing their disturbing effects, allowing clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms. The name of this therapy is in fact misleading, in that eye-movement – a form of bi-lateral hemispheric stimulation – is not in fact a necessary feature. That is, other ways of stimulating the interaction of the two halves of the brain may be employed e.g. alternating auditory signals.
This safe, non-invasive therapy follows an eight-step protocol that includes having clients recall distressing images while receiving one of the several types of bilateral sensory input.
The use of EMDR therapy was originally developed to treat adults suffering from PTSD. However, it is also used to treat a very wide range of psychological difficulties and is successfully employed with children of all ages.
EMDR – 20/20 Report