What is EMDR?

EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is an innovative clinical treatment that has successfully helped over a million individuals of all ages in many different countries since it was developed in 1987.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR is a complex method of psychotherapy that integrates many of the successful elements of other therapeutic approaches in combination with eye movements or other forms of rhythmical stimulation of the brain's information-processing system. By activating the information-processing system of the brain, EMDR uses individuals' own resources to help them achieve their therapeutic goals, with recognizable changes that don't disappear over time.

But does EMDR really work?

Fourteen controlled studies support the efficacy of EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of trauma. A 1995 study of 80 individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder demonstrated that clients improved significantly with EMDR treatment and maintained their gains at a 15-month follow-up.

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EMDR for Transforming Trauma

EMDR has been used to treat a wide range of troubling experiences, from those that are rare and would be traumatic for most people--such as rape, combat, accidents, natural disasters and crime--to those that are relatively common, such as the loss of a loved one, having an angry or alcoholic parent, or being the victim of bullying, teasing or emotional abuse. Since traumatic experiences can play a role in many problems, EMDR can also help with depression, anxiety and phobias, fears related to medical procedures, sexual problems, chronic pain, sleep problems, learning disabilities, and performance anxiety.

When a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it ordinarily does. One moment, or several, can become frozen in time. Remembering the trauma can feel as bad as going through it the first time. In addition, such memories can have a lasting negative effect on the way a person sees the world, relates to other people and lives their life.

EMDR seems to have a direct, beneficial effect on the way the brain handles upsetting information. It allows normal information processing to resume, so images, sounds, and feelings are no longer relived when the event is brought to mind. What happened is remembered, but it is far less upsetting.

EMDR for Performance Enhancement

EMDR has been found to be a powerful tool for enhancing the work of performers, creative artists, athletes, and individuals anticipating a challenge at work or a difficult medical procedure.

I can't do it!... I'm no good at it... I'll make a fool of myself... Remember the time when I really blew it?... Wait, just focus, but...

We're all familiar with the inner dialogue that haunts us when we are preparing to do something really important. This inner dialogue and the fear it evokes can keep us from even getting started; it can cause us to avoid setting goals or working toward them in a consistent way; and it can keep us from doing our best when the critical moment comes.

EMDR for Performance Enhancement targets upsetting memories (e.g., a failed performance) and fears, as well as positive and negative thoughts and feelings. It teaches you to control or even eliminate those irrational, distorted anticipatory fears. It can help you let go and move on following real or perceived failure. It can also enhance and reinforce the experiences associated with a positive performance.

Treatment involves getting the past into perspective and then preparing for the future. By mentally rehearsing upcoming performances, you can deal in advance with the fears that interfere with your potential. EMDR can be used to treat problems at work, in school, in the performing arts and sports, and in handling medical procedures.

What Is an Actual EMDR Session Like?

During an EMDR session, you will work individually with a trained clinician who has gotten to know you and understands the issues or situations that are troubling you.

The person working with you will help you identify a specific situation related to the problem you wish to work on. While you are picturing the troubling event you will experience a non-invasive form of rhythmical stimulation of your brain's information-processing system. This can be done in several ways. Most often you will be asked to move your eyes back and forth to follow the clinician's fingers or a light--hence the "eye movement" portion of the treatment's name.

You will be asked to notice what comes into your mind. Since each person processes information in a unique way, there is no right or wrong way for a client to do EMDR.

The clinician will guide you in processing your experience and will also discuss it with you. In this way, it will become less upsetting and more associated with positive beliefs and feelings about yourself.

During the treatment session you may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people feel much better.