EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In 1987, Francine Shapiro went for a walk. She noticed that as she was thinking about an upsetting memory, her eyes darted back and forth. After the spontaneous eye movements, the thoughts seemed to be less upsetting. She began testing it, and after numerous studies, she found that it reduced symptoms associated with trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The eye movements have been thought to be similar to the REM sleep cycle. Francine Shapiro found that the human mind can heal itself. Life experiences, sometimes formed in childhood, begin to create neural pathways in the brain. Specific traumas might lead to the memory or the information to be stored in a way that feels that the past is very present. This can look like a flashback, nightmare or an emotional re-experiencing of the original trauma. When the memory or trauma isn’t assimilated into the mind, it creates suffering. EMDR helps to get the mind get back on track so that it can heal.
Sometimes after trauma, people might have a lowered self-worth or fear for their safety. With EMDR, negative thoughts are decreased, and more healing thoughts are increased. The painful memory is brought out of long term memory and into the present so that it can be processed. EMDR, when done with a trained professional, is a safe way to restore balance into your life.
What can I expect when I do EMDR?
The EMDR therapist will ask about your background. The therapist will then give you the tools to enable you to relax and calm yourself before the eye movement sessions. EMDR differs from other therapies in that it uses eye movements to help the mind process painful memories. Sometimes, this can reduce the number of sessions needed as compared to other treatments. The therapist will use her hand or a light bar to guide your eye movements.
People who undergo the treatment will be guided through a series of questions in a safe environment. Trauma can be painful to speak about because it can feel as if you are reliving the trauma. With EMDR, less speaking is involved, but painful memories might still come up. The therapist will sit with you and guide you to watch the memories. At any point, the person receiving the EMDR treatment can stop the eye-movements by holding up their hand or saying stop.