EMDR is a powerful psychological treatment method that was developed by clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro.
A wealth of research has been conducted demonstrating the benefits of EMDR in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as war, childhood abuse or neglect, natural disaster, assault, road traffic collisions and workplace accidents.
Recent research also suggests benefits of using EMDR in treating a number of conditions including anxiety disorders, depression and chronic pain. EMDR has been found to be of benefit to children as well as adults.
WHAT HAPPENS IN EMDR?
Normally, when we receive sensory information it passes through an emotional filter in our brain called the Amygdala, which is located in the Limbic system of the brain. This information then passes through another structure, the Hippocampus. The Hippocampus processes information for time and space properties and allows it to pass to the left hemisphere of the brain. This experience is then stored in the memory and something new is learned.
However, when incoming sensory information is emotionally charged, for example because of a traumatic event or some other very disturbing experience, it gets stuck in the Central Nervous System in the right hemisphere of the brain. This stuck information does not get processed. When reminders of the event occur, the stuck memory is triggered and is emotionally re-experienced in the present. This accounts for flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and nightmares that are common symptoms of PTSD.
HOW DOES EMDR WORK?
EMDR seems to directly influence the way that the brain functions. It helps to restore normal ways of dealing with problems (i.e. information processing). Following successful EMDR treatment, memories of such events are no longer painful when brought to mind. What happened can still be recalled, but it is no longer upsetting. EMDR appears to mimic what the brain does naturally during dreaming or REM (Rapid Eye Movements) sleep. EMDR can be thought of as an inherently natural therapy which assists the brain in working through distressing material utilising a natural process. This is called Adaptive Information Processing.
The use of EMDR helps clients reprocess their traumatic memories by using a process that involves repeated left-right (bilateral) stimulation of the brain while noticing different aspects of the traumatic memory. It is believed that the bilateral stimulation of EMDR creates biochemical changes in the brain that aid processing of information. Theorists suggest that the mode of action occurs in the Limbic System, where the Amygdala and Hippocampus are located.
For further information and resource materials please go to www.emdrwork.org