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What is Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing
(EMDR)? EMDR is a new, nontraditional, very short-term therapy for treating trauma victims that utilizes rhythmical stimulation
such as eye movements or hand taps. Shapiro, a clinical psychologist and fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto,
Calif., who developed the approach, reports cases in which as few as three 90-minute EMDR sessions have relieved patients'
disabling anxiety. Explaining how she developed the technique in 1987, Shapiro describes the treatment, theorizes about why
it works and cites supporting research. She suggests that the rhythmical stimulation inherent in the process jump starts and
accelerates the brain's information processing system to enable the victims to begin to process the traumatic experiences
in which they have been stuck so that natural healing can begin. Visit Official EMDR website
READ ABOUT THE EIGHT PHASES OF TREATMENT
PHASE 1: A history taking session during which the therapist
assesses the client's readiness for EMDR and develops a treatment plan. Client and therapist identify possible targets for
EMDR processing. These include recent distressing events, current situations that elicit emotional disturbance, related historical
incidents, and the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations.
2: The therapist ensures that the client has adequate methods of handling emotional distress and good coping skills, and that
the client is in a relatively stable state. If further stabilization is required, or if additional skills are needed, therapy
focuses on providing these. The client is then able to use stress reducing techniques whenever necessary, during or between
sessions. However, one goal is not to need these techniques once therapy is complete.
PHASES 3-6: A target is
identified and processed using EMDR procedures. These involve the client identifying the most vivid visual image related to
the memory (if available), a negative belief about self, related emotions and body sensations. The client also identifies
a preferred positive belief. The validity of the positive belief is rated, as is the intensity of the negative emotions.
this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously moving his/her
eyes back and forth following the therapist's fingers as they move across his/her field of vision for 20-30 seconds or more,
depending upon the need of the client. Athough eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus, therapists often
use auditory tones, tapping, or other types of tactile stimulation. The kind of dual attention and the length of each set
is customized to the need of the client. The client is instructed to just notice whatever happens. After this, the clinician
instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes
to mind. Depending upon the client's report the clinician will facilitate the next focus of attention. In most cases a client-directed
association process is encouraged. This is repeated numerous times throughout the session. If the client becomes distressed
or has difficulty with the process, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client resume processing. When
the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, the clinician asks him/her to think of the preferred positive
belief that was identified at the beginning of the session, or a better one if it has emerged, and to focus on the incident,
while simultaneously engaging in the eye movements. After several sets, clients generally report increased confidence in this
positive belief. The therapist checks with the client regarding body sensations. If there are negative sensations, these are
processed as above. If there are positive sensations, they are further enhanced.
PHASE 7: In closure, the therapist
asks the client to keep a journal during the week to document any related material that may arise and reminds the client of
the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.
PHASE 8: A re-evaluation of the previous work, and
of progress since the previous session. EMDR treatment ensures processing of all related historical events, current incidents
that elicit distress, and future scenarios that will require different responses. The overall goal is produce the most comprehensive
and profound treatment effects in the shortest period of time, while simultaneously maintaining a stable client within a balanced
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
F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures (2nd ed.). New York:
2Shapiro, F. (2002). EMDR as an Integrative Psychotherapy Approach: Experts of Diverse Orientations
Explore the Paradigm Prism. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Books.