What is EMDR?

As stated in Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing-- Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures (Francine Shapiro, 1995, Guilford Press): "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a new clinical treatment that has shown to be effective for victims of trauma….

EMDR is a time-efficient, comprehensive methodology--backed by positive controlled research--for the treatment for the disturbing experiences that underline pathologies. An eight phased treatment approach that includes using eye movements or other left-right stimulation, EMDR helps victims of trauma reprocess disturbing thoughts and memories. Although current knowledge of neurobiology does not provide a definitive explanation, Dr. Francine Shapiro, the originator of EMDR, theorizes that its effects are connected to the same processes that occur in REM sleep. The eye movements seem to stimulate the client's innate information-processing system to transform dysfunctional, self-denigrating thoughts into less threatening, more palatable information."

Who Can Benefit From EMDR Therapy?

EMDR seems to be effective for those individuals suffering from chronic grief, trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It offers the POTENTIAL for fairly rapid treatment from these problems as well as those dealing with less debilitating issues. It is for those who have the desire and motivation to use a tool that can possibly accelerate the therapeutic healing process.

What Does EMDR Do?

EMDR is a clinically proven technique, which can possibly accelerate access to memories, and issues usually dealt with in traditional psychotherapy, especially those associated with trauma. During a traumatic experience, a person can be so severely affected that the brain's information processing system does not function normally. The traumatic memories and feelings can associate with negative thoughts about one-self and get "stuck" in the subconscious in ways that can greatly inhibit a person's ability to function normally. With the help of a trained therapist, EMDR could possibly provide this person with a controlled therapeutic method, which might help access this material and help the brain process it as it should have been when it first occurred. This does not cure the person of the stress or grief associated with a trauma, but it might enable the person to start moving past the pain and blocks and start focusing more on life.

Why Does EMDR Work?

In clinical terms, EMDR is the rapid desensitization of traumatic memories, including a cognitive restructuring and a possible significant reduction of client symptoms (e.g., emotional distress, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares). In practical terms, EMDR is a controlled technique, which simulates the subconscious rapid-eye-movement (REM) which you experience when asleep. Just as REM sleep can release painful memories subconsciously when you dream, EMDR can possibly help to release, in a conscious state, the fear and anxiety associated with traumatic memories. EMDR can then assist the client to address their feelings and beliefs attached to this event or memory. Through the "Reprocessing" component of the session, EMDR then attempts to gradually empower the client to change the meaning and beliefs associated to the event.

What Should I Expect to Experience During an EMDR Session?

"The EMDR procedure includes induced movements of the client's eyes while the client is guided through an account of a trauma or a body sensation. In the hands of a trained clinicain with good clinical skills, who is adept at following the client's process, it can save many hours of therapy" (Judith Boore, M.A., 1993. The California Therapist, "EMDR - A New Procedure")

EMDR is performed with the active participation of the client, so they will remain awake, alert, and in control throughout the session. After a full overview of the technique, the therapist will ask the client to identify an image, which represents the memory associated with a traumatic, painful or disturbing event. The client will be asked to identify a negative belief that that was programmed in the subconscious, as a result of the incident. The client will also be asked to identify a positive belief they would desire to have activated in place of the negative statement. In the course of the session, the client will be subjectively using a numeric rating scale to measure the level of disturbance between brief periods of induced rapid eye movements, roughly 30 to 60 seconds in duration. Between the short periods of eye movement, the client simply reports anything they notice about the memory, negative belief, physical sensations and emotional state.

If the desired effect of a lessened or eliminated sense of disturbance related to the memory is achieved, the therapist will then use the eye movement to reprocess the desired positive belief in the conscious mind of the client. This will continue until the client reports greater comfort and association with the positive belief about themselves. The therapist will then offer suggestions. To the client to help reinforce the positive beliefs between sessions and ways of just noticing any effects the session may have had on the client after they leave the office. What if I Need More Information?

For additional information or to schedule an appointment, feel free to leave a message on my consultation page or call me at the number listed on this website. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have about EMDR, or send you additional information. During a consultation, I can listen carefully to concerns you may have about your condition, and help you determine whether EMDR is an appropriate tool to assist you in your desire to overcome your pain and live more fully.

EMDR is a specialized therapy tool that requires supervised training and experience. I have taken this training, and have used EMDR with varying degrees of success with many of my clients suffering from anxiety, trauma, and fear. It is not a magic cure-all, but it can possibly assist you.

For additional information and referrals in your area, you can also contact the EMDR INSTITUTE at 408 372-3900 or their website at www.emdr.com

Stuart Altschuler, M.F.T.
(707) 786-9727
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