Therapist Anastasia Pollock describes how a modern type of treatment is helping patients find relief faster. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is a psychotherapy that was founded by Francine Shapiro around 25 years ago. Doctor Shapiro found that eye movements have a desensitizing effect on the nervous system. This therapeutic approach was originally developed to desensitize trauma but through the years, it has been discovered to be effective in treating many types of challenges including depression, anxiety, phobias, relationship problems, anger problems, to name a few.
EMDR Therapy is based in the Adaptive Information Processing Model, which proposes that people have a built-in data processing system in the brain. When something troublesome happens, the brain is not able to normally process the data as it does with every day, non-disturbing events. By bringing focus to specific information and memories that are maladaptively stored in the brain and using bilateral stimulation, the brain is then able to tap into its natural ability to process data and it is then able to properly process the disturbing information that is causing a person’s symptoms and move the information to the correct place in the brain. The individual then experiences a reduction in disturbance and relief from their condition.
EMDR Therapy consists of 8 phases. Three out of the 8 phases promote bilateral stimulation to help the brain to reprocess data. The other phases consist of taking a history, preparation prior to reprocessing troublesome information, closure, and reassessment. In the beginning of EMDR Therapy, an EMDR therapist will get a psychosocial history and will then begin teaching skills for managing emotion and disturbance. The goal with EMDR Therapy is to reprocess maladaptively stored data without being re-traumatized. It is all about reprocessing data from today’s perspective rather than having to relive troublesome experiences.
Once an individual is properly prepared, an EMDR therapist will help the person to access the parts of memory in the brain and will then facilitate the reprocessing by implementing bilateral eye movements, tactile, or auditory stimulation. There will be breaks between sets of bilateral stimulation where the individual will report what he or she is noticing and then the reprocessing will proceed until the person no longer experiences disturbance and begins having more adaptive reactions to the old memory. This could take several sessions but typically, data moves much faster than in traditional talk therapy, giving a person relief in a shorter span of time.