EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.

EMDR was developed by American clinical psychologist Francine Shapiro in the 1980s (F. Shapiro, 1989). The therapy involves the identification of unprocessed traumatic or other distressing experiences that are continuing to drive an individual’s psychological disturbance.

During a treatment session a client is asked to recall the worst aspect of the memory together with the accompanying currently held negative thoughts and associated bodily sensations. Clients are then guided to move their eyes from side to side, or employ some other form of bilateral stimulation (BLS).

The effect is to desensitise the individual to the distressing memory but, more importantly, to reprocess the memory so that the associated cognitions become more adaptive.

Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes in a relatively short time.

EMDR therapy is now recognised as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organisations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organisation and the Department of Defence. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.

Evidence Base

More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. Some of the 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 clients and 77% of multiple trauma clients no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. (Excerpt from EMDR Institute)

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