Do you suffer from depression and anxiety? Are you stuck in old, painful or self-destructive patterns? Do negative beliefs about yourself echo inside your head? Is trauma from the past still affecting your life? Is it hard to move on to a fresh and positive perspective? If so, EMDR therapy may help.

What is EMDR Therapy?

For over a decade, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has been gaining attention as a powerful therapeutic tool for treatment of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. It was discovered quite by accident in 1987 by Dr Francine Shapiro. What she found was that a particular kind of eye movement has a way of affecting disturbing thoughts. She experimented using the technique with war veterans, survivors of rape and childhood abuse, and found more and more positive results. Clients reported that many of the emotional, physical and cognitive blockages that occur with trauma were cleared. It was developed and shown to bring healing to people suffering from a wide variety of disturbances.

How does EMDR work?

There are several theories on how EMDR works though it is not completely known. When someone has a trauma, the brain can get overwhelmed with information – flooded with negative thoughts, painful body sensations, emotions and images. EMDR therapy utilizes sequential bi-lateral stimulation of the brain through eye movements, tapping or sounds. This has a positive and integrating effect on how the brain processes and stores information. So people, who have been “stuck” on the same old images and material, can move on. Memories are still there but the upset –painful feelings, uncomfortable body sensations, obsessive negative thoughts – can decrease. This processing can allow one’s natural state of well being to come through again.

What issues does EMDR address?

EMDR therapy has been shown through research studies to be especially effective with trauma. But it is also applicable to those life events that reinforce negative beliefs about ourselves and the world. Beliefs like “I am powerless”, “The world isn’t safe”, I always get hurt in relationship”, “my body is ugly”… endless statements that perpetuate an old, stuck and trapped way of thinking and being in the world.

The following issues may be addressed with EMDR:
l. Trauma from childhood abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), rape, assaults, accidents, and invasive medical procedures
2. Grief and loss
3. Anxiety symptoms and panic attacks
4. Addictive behaviors including eating disorders and substance abuse
5. Low self-esteem
6. Performance anxiety and performance enhancement
7. Building positive self -image, reinforcing strengths and opening up creative, spiritual channels

What EMDR therapist is best to work with?

EMDR is best utilized by an experienced psychotherapist. Having someone who is skilled using EMDR and well-trained in psychotherapy can ensure that this powerful tool is used to its full potential. EMDR can be used on its own or be an adjunct to regular “talk” therapy. Since the focus is often on very vulnerable material, it is important that the clinician values creating trust and safety in a therapeutic relationship. Finding a therapist that you are comfortable with helps facilitate the healing process.
EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) is a professional association where the highest standards for the clinical use of EMDR are set. Many therapists are trained in EMDR but certification by the EMDR International Association means the therapist has met specific requirements regarding experience, consultation and continuing education. A licensed psychotherapist who is also certified by EMDRIA can help determine if EMDR is right for you.

Author's Bio: 

Marlena Kushner, M.A. MFT is a licensed psychotherapist with over 30 years experience in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area with offices in San Francisco and Marin. She has been certified by EMDRIA (EMDR International Association) and incorporates EMDR in her work with clients on a broad range of issues. Please feel free to see her profile on www.womenstherapyservices.com or contact her directly at (415)563-2759.