Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR); A Breakthrough for Clients with Trauma Related Distress
What is this treatment all about?
Francine Shapiro created Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing when she noticed that disturbing thoughts decreased as she watched geese move across the sky over a period of time (Posmontier, Dovydaitis, & Lipman, 2010). The type of eye movement Shapiro experienced through watching the geese is known as Saccadic eye movement. Saccadic eye movement engages the brain to be stimulated bilaterally (both sides of the brain are activated at once) and is also the type of eye movement that occurs during REM sleep. When the brain is stimulated bilaterally through Saccadic eye movement, it also activates the brain to begin Adaptive Information Processing (AIP). Adaptive Information Processing is the brain’s way of taking a distressing memory and gradually fading each scene of the memory until it holds no specific emotional importance.
How does EMDR work?
Shapiro emphasized that when a person experiences trauma, memories of the trauma may block the process of AIP from naturally occurring. This can create an almost brick wall for the person because it leaves them unable to process the trauma and move through it, thus creating distress. Like the immune system heals a wound for the physical body, bilateral brain stimulation through EMDR can heal the psychiatric wound trauma can leave (Posmontier, Dovydaitis, & Lipman, 2010). When EMDR engages bilateral brain stimulation along with the recalling of the trauma, the person can begin to go through AIP and become desensitized to the traumatic memory, enabling them to begin to move through the process of healing and reprocessing.
Who does EMDR help?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a recent treatment that has been shown to help patients in therapy decrease their symptoms of distress from physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological trauma (Posmontier, Dovydaitis, & Lipman, 2010). Patients that have gone through traumatic situations involving natural disasters such as hurricanes or floods (Adúriz, Bluthgen, & Knopfler, 2009) can be helped through EMDR. A traumatic event such as a heart attack (Arabia, Manca, & Solomon, 2011) or a car accident (Kemp, Drummond, & McDermott, 2010) can also be helped by EMDR. Long or short-term abuse from physical, sexual, emotional, or physiological trauma(s) as a child or in the form of a close relationship with an abuser is another area that EMDR has been proven to effective in treating. Most recently, soldiers returning from war suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or war veterans (Silver, Rogers, & Russell, 2008) have had their symptoms and psychological distress decrease through EMDR treatment. Although age must be looked at during the assessment of using EMDR on a patient, children (Hensel, 2009), adults, and the elderly of both genders have been shown to improve from EMDR treatment.
What are the benefits of EMDR?
Although EMDR is a relatively recent breakthrough in the treatment for patients, it has been proven to be a great tool for assisting the patient’s ability to process and become desensitized to the traumatic event(s) they have experienced. EMDR treatment can be used for patients as the sole form of treatment or as a treatment alongside Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Patients must be assessed to see whether they fit the criteria and/or would benefit from this type of treatment. A huge incentive from using EMDR in treatment of trauma related distress is that it can be both cost and time effective (Posmontier, Dovydaitis, & Lipman, 2010). Psychiatric recovery and improvement of functioning for the patient after undergoing EMDR can be obtained in fewer sessions compared to other forms of conventional psychotherapy.
Adúriz, M., Bluthgen, C., & Knopfler, C. (2009). Helping child flood victims using group EMDR intervention in Argentina: Treatment outcome and gender differences. International Journal Of Stress Management, 16, 138-153. doi:10.1037/a0014719
Arabia, E., Manca, M., & Solomon, R. M. (2011). EMDR for survivors of life-threatening cardiac events: Results of a pilot study. Journal Of EMDR Practice And Research, 5, 2-13. doi:10.1891/1933-3220.127.116.11
Hensel, T. (2009). EMDR with children and adolescents after single-incident trauma: An intervention study. Journal Of EMDR Practice And Research, 3, 2-9. doi:10.1891/1933-318.104.22.168
Kemp, M., Drummond, P., & McDermott, B. (2010). A wait-list controlled pilot study of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) for children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms from motor vehicle accidents. Clinical Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 15, 5-25. doi:10.1177/1359104509339086
Posmontier, B., Dovydaitis, T., & Lipman, K. (2010). Sexual violence: Psychiatric healing with eye movement reprocessing and desensitization. Health Care For Women International, 31, 755-768. doi:10.1080/07399331003725523
Silver, S. M., Rogers, S., & Russell, M. (2008). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of war veterans. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 64, 947-957. doi:10.1002/jclp.20510
- The essence of EFT and EMDR (hshere23.wordpress.com)
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