Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b). Shapiro (2001) suggests that EMDR facilitates the accessing and processing of traumtic memories to bring these to a healthy resolution. After successful treatment with EMDR, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. During EMDR the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external bilateral stimulation, e.g. lateral eye movements, hand-tapping, and audio stimulation (Shapiro, 1991).

Shapior (195) hypothesizes that EMDR facilitates the accessing of the traumatic memory network, desensitzes current distress, internal and external triggers, and then allows more adaptive information to integrate. These new associations are thought to result in new learning, elimination of emotional distress, development of cognitive insights, and new experiences in the world.

EMDR was given the highest level of recommendation (category for robust empirical support and demonstrated effectiveness) in the treatment of trauma.” _ see EMDRIA

World Health Organization (in press) Guidelines for the Management of conditions that are specifically related to stress, Geneva, WHO.

Trauma-focused CBT and EMDR therapy are recommended for children, adolescents and adults with PTSD. “Like CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR therapy aims to reduce subjective distress and strengthen adaptive cognitions related to the traumatic event. Unlike CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR does not involve (a) detailed descriptions of the event, (b) direct challenging of beliefs, (c) extended exposure, or (d) homework.”

The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as a highest-level treatment for post traumatic stress, as have the VA, Pentagon, UK Department of Health, Israeli National Council of Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies.

The American Psychological Association chose Francine Shapiro (EMDR founder) as the Division’s 2009 recipient of the “Award for Outstanding Contributions to Practice in Trauma Psychology”.

See all the articles on EMDR at the Francine Shapiro Library