Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of therapy that was developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in 1990, and was initially used to help veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) with great success. It is now being used to treat other types of trauma such as physical or sexual assault, the death of a loved one, a serious accident, or psychological stress generated by chronic illness.

EMDR can also benefit individuals with anxiety, as well as those dealing with depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, or divorce. The EMDR International Association says that “EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.”

Breaking it Down

Contrary to what some of the skeptics may say, EMDR is not a new-age movement that have therapists waggling their fingers in front of a patient’s eyes and *poof* they are healed. While a therapist may use their finger or hand to trigger side-to-side eye movements, they may also utilize the use of musical tones, or tapping of the hand or foot. It’s also important to know that this is just one phase of a complex therapy.

The word “desensitization” in EMDR is somewhat of a misnomer because this type of therapy actually “integrates” traumatic memories in a kinder way that makes room for positive thoughts. Basically, EMDR is used to help people revisit a painful experience without being re-traumatized.

The great psychiatrist, Milton Erickson (1901-1980) once said, “Once you kick the log, the river will start flowing.” Put into context, EMDR helps patients to relieve the blockage created by the traumatic experience so they can live happy, productive lives. This is done through “reprocessing.”

Reprocessing doesn’t necessarily involve talk therapy, meaning the patient does not have to discuss the trauma in excruciating detail. It really means helping the patient to process the traumatic memories and add new experiences that will leave the individual with a healthier perspective, understanding, and a positive outlook.

The Bottom Line

Everyone deserves a happy, fulfilling life with good relationships. However, that can be impossible to achieve if someone is “stuck” in the past because bad experiences and memories haven’t been properly filtered and remain unprocessed. This can leave an individual feeling insecure about themselves or the people around them, while believing they are not in control. These negative feelings and emotions can emerge in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, sleep difficulties, problems with concentrating, social anxiety, or angry outbursts.

EMDR does more than make the unpleasant symptoms go away. It deals with the past, present, and future, which enables the person to reach an over-all state of emotional health and well-being.

For more information, talk to a qualified mental health professional such as Dr. Susan K Daniel, who specializes in EMDR and can help you develop an effective treatment plan.

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