Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
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What is Trauma?

At times, our ability to adapt to challenging circumstances can be overwhelmed. This may occur when we experience a severe trauma, such as torture, a tragic loss, or a car accident, as Servan-Schreiber (2005) notes. Alternatively, even a less severe trauma can have long-lasting effects if it happens during childhood or any other period when we are physically weak and vulnerable, without the ability to defend ourselves, and with a developing nervous system.

About EMDR

Traumatic memory refers to information about an event that becomes locked in the nervous system in its original form. This may include images, thoughts, sounds, smells, emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs in their raw emotional state. These memories remain stored in the emotional brain (limbic system) and are often disconnected from the rational brain (cortex), which is responsible for logical thinking. The raw memory can be triggered by various stimuli, such as a scent, a loud noise, or 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), as well as other forms of bilateral stimulation. These can include methods like hand-tapping, auditory tones, or tapping on the knees. The use of these alternative methods provides bilateral stimulation and helps facilitate the effective processing of traumatic memories.

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.

Therapy process

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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