What is Trauma?
In some circumstances, our systems capacity to adapt can be overwhelmed. For example is when a trauma is too strong, such as a torture, tragic loss, or a car accident (Servan-Schreiber 2005). Another circumstance is when a trauma (a lesser one) takes place at a time when we are vulnerable, for example during our childhood, when we are physically weak, powerless to defend ourselves and when our nervous system is not fully developed.
Trauma memory is information about an event that has become locked in the nervous systems almost in its original form. Images thoughts, sounds, smells, emotions and physical sensations and beliefs (in it’s raw emotional form). It stays locked in the emotional brain (limbic) and disconnected from our rational brain (the thinking part, know as the cortex). This raw memory is triggered by stimuli (e.g. whiff of aftershave/perfume, a loud bang, anxious thoughts).
The focus of EMDR is to evoke the memory in all of its different components (visual, cognitive and physical), and to ask the client (person coming to therapy) to simply follow the hand of the therapist with eye movements (back and forth).
This process stimulates the inborn AIP system (Adaptive Information Processing). By inducing eye movements similar to that of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) this provides a necessary assistance to the healing system of the mind (which was not successful on it’s own). The eye movements of EMDR seem to accelerate the natural recovery from psychological trauma.
The therapy process and procedures are according to Shapiro (2001) and follows an eight staged protocol, further details of which can be found here.
For further information on an explanation of how EMDR works please see this very useful sheet
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