A chance discovery
In 1987, Francine Shapiro PhD, was walking outdoors and found herself worried by disturbing intrusive thoughts. Unconsciously, she shifted her eyes back and forth rapidly and in an upward diagonal, and when the disturbing thoughts returned again they began to have less impact. Fascinated, she tried to figure out what she had done to reduce her anxiety, and realized it was her rapid eye movements. As she brought back her disturbing thoughts, she deliberately moved her eyes back and forth in the same pattern and speed, and repeated this several times. After many sets of these eye movements, her distress level decreased considerably when she brought her disturbing thoughts brought back to her awareness.
In the following days, she practiced what she experienced on friends, colleagues, and psychology workshop participants she was attending. A few months later, she headed a clinical study to determine the best way to implement what she discovered. In her clinical studies, Dr. Shapiro found that by applying bilateral stimulation to create rapid eye movement similar to those that occur during sleep (REM), subjects were reducing their emotional and physical responses to memories of past traumatic events. After a few clinical trials, and perfecting a protocol that is effective for most individuals, Dr. Shapiro created EMDR—Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it has been widely used by mental health and psychology professionals in the treatment of childhood trauma, PTSD, anxiety and a host of other mental health issues.
Why EMDR is effective
People seek out therapy for a host of issues in their lives and look for therapy methods that are tried and true. Traditional “talk therapy” can be very effective for many, but for some it may not provide the relief they are seeking. When a traumatic event occurs in childhood the child’s brain isn’t developed enough nor has the context in life to process it. The child may grow up believing it was their fault or they are a bad person, and as an adult may be unconsciously sabotaging their own happiness, careers, or relationships. The memory of that childhood trauma is not residing in the proper storage space in your brain, instead it is front and center where it continues to cause emotional pain and physical distress. Perhaps you are experiencing flashbacks that continue to haunt you. Maybe a familiar smell or sound triggers panic attacks on a regular basis. Possibly you gravitate toward abusive relationships because you don’t feel you deserve better. Perhaps you just feel unhappy, unlovable, or stuck in your life and simply cannot get ahead. Traumatic memories of childhood trauma may be the culprit of all this suffering and dysfunction, and EMDR can be a very effective treatment.
What to expect in your EMDR session
The first thing I will do is inquire why you are seeking therapy and get your extensive life history: how you grew up, relationship with your family, significant events that occurred in your childhood as well as memories of traumatic events. I will ask about your life is going presently, your past and current relationships, and patterns of behavior you are aware of that cause you to be stuck. There is often an obvious correlation to issues you are presenting with in treatment and a childhood trauma, and if it isn’t obvious, there is an effective protocol to discover it. Once a traumatic event is identified, there is a step by step procedure we will follow. You will be totally conscious throughout, and if you wish to stop any time you will be able to. After you first EMDR session, we will process what you experienced and any insights you may have gained about the event, yourself and others. Even in one session, you can be completely desensitized and reprocess a traumatic memory, but some may take several sessions to provide the level of relief you are seeking. If you have any further questions about EMDR or about my practice, please contact me at 561-213-6327.