In the late 1980’s, Francine Shapiro made a chance observation while out for a walk. She noticed that by moving her eyes back and forth as she observed the scenery, she was able to work through the disturbing thoughts she had been having without conscious effort. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy was born from this discovery. It has been extensively researched and proven to help people recover and heal from trauma and other distressing life experiences.
Our brains are amazing, adaptive and have an innate ability to process information. When we experience trauma or stress, often our brains will manage and resolve the events spontaneously. But sometimes, our experiences get stuck if they are not processed effectively. In essence, for some reason, the processing gets blocked and the information becomes “frozen in time”. What fires together wires together in our neural pathways. If those pathways get blocked, new and more adaptive learning cannot take place. Those memories may be encoded with the emotions, beliefs and physical sensations experienced at the time of the event or trauma. These unprocessed memories can also includes dysfunctional family of origin relationships, as well as other harmful experiences or relationships in our lives.
Simply put, when we have a strong reaction to something in our present (an argument with our partner sends us into a panic attack), it knocks our rational brain offline and our emotional brain responds (because that disappointed look creates the same physical response that we experienced when our intoxicated parent would respond to us as a child). EMDR helps your brain process the traumatic event/experience in an adaptive way and allows healing to occur.
Although initially researched as a treatment for PTSD, EMDR has been shown to be effective for a variety of struggles including, but not limited to anxiety, chronic illness and pain, depression, disordered eating, grief and loss, sexual assault, substance abuse and violence.
Below are some videos that provide further information about this powerful therapy.