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What is EMDR?

Blue Eyes
Aerial Photo of a Mountain Path

Have you ever been walking in nature along a well-worn pathway? You travel along that pathway because it is most easily navigated, the quickest way to get where you are going, and the path that you likely walk along each time you are there?

Our brains operate in a similar way; they like to function along the path of least resistance and most of the time, this is a positive thing! Using our well-worn paths allows us to make decisions quickly and efficiently.  For example, it allowed our ancestors to understand: “Over here is a lion: DANGER!” or “Over there is a pheasant: YUM!”. The ones whose brains took the slow and careful path to arrive at the same conclusions ... they didn’t survive. So our brains taking the easy route, the one that is well-worn, familiar, and often unconscious, generally allows us to function in a way that is conducive to our survival.  

However, when it comes to memories and our reactions to memories, our brains operate in a similar way, which is to say, in a fast and usually unconscious manner. 

When we experience a difficult or traumatic situation, our brain quickly and sneakily stores it away in our memory, unprocessed and without our awareness, along with either adaptive or maladaptive information.  For most of us, it stores the maladaptive stuff: “I should have done something”, “I am not lovable”, “I am not safe,” etc. And regrettably, our brains access these difficult or traumatic memories (including the maladaptive information) in the quickest way possible.  We recall these experiences, sometimes consciously but usually unconsciously, in a repetitive manner, along the deeply engrained, well-travelled pathways. And these pathways then lead us to the distress and dysfunction in our every day lives.

EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) allows the brain to break away from these well-worn, maladaptive routes, and instead, seeks to forge new distinctive pathways, complete with heathy and adaptive information not only about our experiences, but ultimately, about ourselves.

Developed in 1987 by Dr.Francine Shapiro, EMDR is a systematic approach to therapy, which involves the use of bilateral stimulation (such as eye-movements, tapping, buzzing, or sounds) during the recall of disturbing or difficult experiences.  When accessing the memory, the individual processes any visual pictures associated with that experience, any distressing thoughts or emotions that come up for them, and/or any somatic symptoms that accompany the recollection.  By directly processing this previously unprocessed information, linkage to more adaptive memory networks occur, as well as a transformation of all

aspects of the memory itself.  With the new formation of these adaptive memory networks comes much lower levels of disturbance (for many, no disturbance at all) around the trauma itself, as well as the healthy development of self-worth, safety, and the ability to assume appropriate responsibility for the self and others.      

The World Health Organization recognizes only two methods of therapy that treat trauma successfully: EMDR is one of them (CBT is the other).

EMDR helps individuals get sustained, measurable, and proven results - Fast.

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