A Brief Introduction to EMDR Therapy
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, and has been established by extensive scientific and clinical research as an effective treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It also has applications beyond PTSD to other life experiences that overwhelmed the brain’s ability to digest and make sense of what happened. It can be used to help establish (or restore) self esteem and confidence, and to release attachments to old, painful loyalties and unresolved emotional baggage.
EMDR therapy employs a bilateral, dual attention stimulus such as eye movements, tactile or auditory stimulation (eye movements were the original form, hence the name of the therapy), which is understood to kickstart an orienting response in the brain, linking into a mode of information processing that typically occurs during the sleep cycle. The dual attention stimulus can be created by the practitioner either manually (the waving of fingers or a wand from left to right, engaging the client in bi-lateral eye movements) or by using equipment and software specifically designed to accomplish same. The bi-lateral, dual attention stimulus, when employed in the context of this structured therapy approach designed to access, desensitize, and reprocess emotionally disturbing material, creates the conditions for the brain to fully digest what previously was held by the nervous system in a raw, partially (or fully) unprocessed form. The past can finally, truly feel like the past–rather than a perpetual, painful present.
EMDR therapy involves the following steps, if people are not dissociative:
- Client History Taking, which includes diagnostic assessment, evaluation of ‘red flags’ that necessarily require trauma accessing to move more slowly, and developing a flexible plan for preparation and trauma accessing
- Preparation, which includes establishing safety, strengthening existing and/or creating new practical and emotional resources, and, working with ego states and body awareness/connection, to ensure the best treatment outcome
- Assessment of the memory: Associated imagery, negative belief(s) about the self, the positive belief one would prefer instead (and how valid it seems at the outset), emotion and the body sensations, and the level of disturbance connected to it
- Desensitization of disturbing material with bilateral dual-attention stimulus: Eye movements, auditory tones, or taps.
- Installation of the desired positive cognition, once it is ready to be received and strengthened
- Body Scan, to “weed out” any remaining disturbing memory material not available for accessing during Desensitization and Installation phases
- Closure, when the reprocessing is paused and any remaining, disturbing material is contained or ‘tucked in’ prior to the client leaving the therapy space
- Re-evaluation/Review takes place in the next session, to review the previous session’s reprocessing work and ensure complete reprocessing of the memory material
My Background in EMDR Therapy
I am an Approved Consultant for and Certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) by the EMDR International Association, the accrediting body for EMDR therapy professionals and trainings. I have extensive training in EMDR therapy to treat pre-verbal and early childhood trauma; addictions and compulsions; and, complex trauma and the dissociative disorders.
I am currently accepting new consultees both for ongoing, general consultation on assessment and treatment of complex trauma/dissociation and the use of the EMDR early trauma approach, as well as consultation for the purposes of EMDRIA Certification in EMDR therapy.
I have received extensive training and consultation in Katie O’Shea’s and Sandra Paulsen’s Early Trauma Approach, Robert Miller’s Feeling-State Addiction Protocol (FSAP), Larry Anderson’s Craving and Consequence of Use (CCU) protocol, and Sandra Paulsen’s approach to using EMDR therapy, in an integrative approach, to treat complex trauma and dissociative disorders.
Additionally, I was an active member of EMDRIA’s Standards & Training Committee from 2014 to 2017.