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What is EMDR?

EMDR International Association defines EMDR as: “. . . an evidence-based psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, successful outcomes are well-documented in the literature for EMDR treatment of other psychiatric disorders, mental health problems, and somatic symptoms. The model on which EMDR is based, Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), posits that much of psychopathology is due to the maladaptive encoding of and/or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences. This impairs the client’s ability to integrate these experiences in an adaptive manner. The eight-phase, three-pronged process of EMDR facilitates the resumption of normal information processing and integration. This treatment approach, which targets past experience, current triggers, and future potential challenges, results in the alleviation of presenting symptoms, a decrease or elimination of distress from the disturbing memory, improved view of the self, relief from bodily disturbance, and resolution of present and future anticipated triggers.” (for more information please visit EMDRIA http://www.emdria.org/)

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (BLS) to stimulate right and left brain hemispheres to integrate memory and internal resources. This can be done by the therapist or client tapping on right/left shoulders or knees in a steady rhythm, the therapist moving her fingers back and forth while the client tracks with eye movement in a right/left rhythm, using a device that has a light for the client to track with the same right/left rhythm, or using a device that has headphones that deliver a tone alternating in the right and left ears, while simultaneously holding small vibrating paddles that are synchronized with the tones. This is done with particular pacing to the client’s internal experience of a memory or emotionally charged situation. Prior to BLS, the client has identified the specific trigger and the negative assumption that often goes with it. EMDR uses “sensing into the body” similar to focusing, as part of its protocol.