EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy treatment developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to help people heal from trauma. EMDR therapy integrates elements of many traditional psychological orientations and is based on the adaptive information processing model (AIP).
The AIP model hypothesizes that there is an inherent information processing system in the brain that gets blocked when traumatic events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Whenever a reminder of the traumatic event comes up, those pictures, thoughts, feelings, and sensations can continue to be triggered. According to Dr. Shapiro, many emotional problems and disorders are manifestations of these unprocessed trauma memories that are stored in the brain. EMDR therapy works on helping the brain reprocess these traumatic memories, and as a result alleviating the emotional and psychological disorders.
During treatment various procedures and protocols are used to address the entire clinical picture. One of the procedural elements is "dual stimulation" using either bilateral eye movements, tones or taps. During the reprocessing phases the client attends momentarily to past memories, present triggers, or anticipated future experiences while simultaneously focusing on a set of external stimulus. During that time, clients generally experience the emergence of insight, changes in memories, or new associations. The clinician assists the client to focus on appropriate material before initiation of each subsequent set.
The effectiveness of EMDR therapy is supported by several controlled studies; in fact EMDR therapy is the most researched psychotherapeutic treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). After EMDR processing, clients generally report that the emotional distress related to the memory has been eliminated, or greatly decreased, and that they have gained important cognitive insights. Importantly, these emotional and cognitive changes usually result in spontaneous behavioral and personal change, which are further enhanced with standard EMDR procedures.
EMDR Institute, Inc. 2011, Ana Gomez 2012