Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a powerful tool developed in 1989 by psychologist Frances Shapiro, who treated Vietnam veterans still suffering severe effects from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. This groundbreaking study was extraordinarily impressive and the technique, now commonly known as EMDR, is applied to other areas of trauma. Its efficacy across a broad range of psychological issues, as well as its efficacy with performance enhancement, is supported by an extensive body of research.

Very simply, the technique supports the nervous system in processing material that was too intense to resolve subsequent to the painful event or events. EMDR significantly reduces the emotional pain and the accompanying body sensations associated with the memory of the trauma. More importantly, EMDR allows the person to change the underlying false beliefs that were instilled with the trauma and replace them with more truthful, helpful beliefs. For example, a small child being abused usually believes deep down that he or she deserved the abuse and this false belief becomes a part of the subconscious. Once there, it will continue to limit that person’s ability to feel good about him or herself and to limit the development of their full potential.

EMDR involves bilateral stimulation through a combination of kinesthetic, auditory, or eye movement. The client first identifies a series of points: a visual memory of a traumatic event; the false belief and a replacement belief; the emotional component and where in the body the distress is located; and the degree of distress. Once identified, the movement begins and the client focuses on and witnesses the internal changes that transpire from accessing the painful memory. After the distress decreases to neutral, the new belief is installed. When done well, new associations are generated in the nervous system with more positive information. In addition to the reduction of distress, clients often experience fresh insights and perspectives that establish a healthier platform from which to create their futures.

Applications of EMDR:

  • Resolving trauma
  • Changing belief systems
  • Enhancing new behaviors

Appropriate Candidates:

  • People who still experience noticeable distress when triggered by or actively remembering a traumatic event. Examples include childhood trauma, car accidents, war, sexual or physical assault, mental abuse, domestic violence, public humiliation.
  • People who are aware that they have limiting beliefs that are blocking their abilities.
  • People who are in training for a new skill.

Kathryn has been using EMDR successfully for more than twenty-four years. Additional references and research can be found at www.emdr.com and in the book, EMDR: The Breakthrough “Eye Movement” Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma by Francine Shapiro, who also wrote, Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy. Also, Laurel Parnell has developed a self-help method derived from EMDR called, Tapping In: A Step-By-Step Guide to Activating Your Healing Resources Through Bilateral Stimulation, which is available as a book or compact disc.