Why use EMDR?
When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. The brain’s information processing system works the same way. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. EMDR can help release those blocks and allow healing from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.
What is EMDR?
EMDR psychotherapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other forms of Bi-Lateral Stimulation) are used during the reprocessing phase of treatment. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, biological mechanisms, like those involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, are activated, and the client begins to process the memory and disturbing feelings. Clients may choose which details to share or not, and there is no homework.
In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it, and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not from clinician interpretation but the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. Their wounds are allowed to heal, and the clients naturally shift these experiences into more positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy, people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference.
More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. Some studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.
There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense.
Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would effectively treat the “everyday” memories that are why people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy.