What is EMDR?
Not just another “Talk Therapy”
Most contemporary talk-therapy models apply a version of the “Cognitive-Behavioral Triangle” – working with the relationship between thoughts, behavior and feelings. The general wisdom is that helping you understand what you feel, why you feel it and how to cope with those feelings as they come up in your life, eventually brings all three sides of the triangle (thoughts/feelings/behavior) into alignment, resulting in reduced symptoms and greater health. As a trained CBT therapist, and Certified Trauma-Focused CBT Supervisor and Consultant, I have seen the positive effects of this kind of work with a great many people – and they can be near miraculous!
There are a few problems, however, with this approach – first, most of these models take a long time, and second, they can be quite painful, emotionally and even physically. You, the client, deserve the most cost-effective treatment with strong outcomes, and with the minimum amount of pain that is reasonably possible.
The most significant difficulty present in the best of these models is that they generally ignore a critical component of the problems many people face – the impact of trauma on both the body and mind. Trauma has a physiological effect that gets people “stuck” in cycles of unhealthy and profoundly difficult-to-control emotional responses and beliefs. While many therapies take trauma into account with depression, anxiety, fear, anger/irritability, suicidal ideation, and certainly Acute Stress and PTSD, few have made the leap to targeting the body and brain connection… but EMDR does just that.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) is a highly researched, evidence-based treatment that is used throughout the world. Put simply, EMDR essentially “rewires” your brain, using bilateral eye movements very similar to the way your brain processes information during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. In EMDR treatment, we identify your negative beliefs and feelings along with the memories of life situations and events that have led to the creation of these “stuck” or intrusive negative feelings and beliefs. We then reprocess the memories, so that you no longer feel terrible or think badly about yourself when you think of those events. That means you won’t simply learn to cope with feeling badly; you will feel better!
So – let’s rewire your brain! Let’s work together to change how you feel, and change your life.
“The body keeps the score: If the memory of trauma is encoded… in heartbreaking and gut-wrenching emotions, in autoimmune disorders and skeletal/muscular problems, and if mind/brain/visceral communication is the royal road to emotion regulation, this demands a radical shift in our therapeutic assumptions.”
– Bessel Van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score
EMDR Institute Research: This is an outstanding resource for up-to-date research related to EMDR.
EMDR Research Foundation: Promotes health and growth of human beings through the support of quality research, evidence-based practice and compassionate, well-informed clinicians.
**The following are only a sample of additional research studies related to EMDR. Full citations are available by following the links. This listing is not intended to be construed as endorsement of any specific author or study, nor is it intended to serve as a comprehensive review of available research.
General Comparative / Efficacy Studies
- Comparison of two treatments for traumatic stress: a community-based study of EMDR and prolonged exposure. (2002)
- EMDR and the Treatment of Complex PTSD: A Review (2009)
- SAMHSA NREPP Informational Resource on EMDR (2012)
- Comparison of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, cognitive behavioral writing therapy, and wait-list in pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder following single-incident trauma: a multicenter randomized clinical trial. (2017)
Comparison of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as Adjunctive Treatments for Recurrent Depression: The European Depression EMDR Network (EDEN) Randomized Controlled Trial (2018)
- The Use of Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder-A Systematic Narrative Review. (2018)