EMDR is a powerful psychological treatment method that was developed by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980s. Since then a wealth of research has been conducted demonstrating its benefits in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as war related experiences, childhood sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect, natural disaster, assault, surgical trauma, road traffic accidents and workplace accidents.
Since its original development, EMDR is also increasingly used to help individuals with other issues and performance anxiety. EMDR has been found to be of benefit to children as well as adults.
EMDR is a complex and powerful therapy. Therapists always have a background in mental health before undertaking training in EMDR.
When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level. When a person recalls the distressing memory, the person can re-experience what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted or felt, and this can be quite intense. Sometimes the memories are so distressing, the person tries to avoid thinking about the distressing event to avoid experiencing the distressing feelings.
Some find that the distressing memories come to mind when something reminds them of the distressing event, or sometimes the memories just seem to just pop into their mind. The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system.