What is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to access and process traumatic memories and other distressing life experiences. Trauma is considered anything that has a lasting negative effect on the self or psyche. In her book, “Getting Past Your Past,” Dr. Shapiro states that when negative reactions and behaviors in the present can be tracked directly to an earlier memory, those memories are defined as “unprocessed,” meaning that they hold the emotions, physical sensations and beliefs that were experienced at the time the incident occurred. Through bilateral stimulation, EMDR allows more positive and empowering present affect and thoughts to link to the dysfunctionally stored memories. These new associations result in new insights, clears the emotional charge of the past memory, fosters a felt sense of truth and objective forgiveness and moves dysfunctional information to functional.
EMDR is a three pronged approach, meaning we access (1) past events that contain the dysfunctionally stored material, (2) present triggers that cause distress and (3) future templates that lay the groundwork for adaptive responses to similar situations.
EMDR can be a brief treatment, treating a single incident trauma, or part of a comprehensive treatment plan to address multiple symptoms and behaviors that have been difficult to change.