EMDR Therapy

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) is an eight phase integrative psychotherapy approach developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD.  It is based on the theory that much of emotional and behavioral disturbance is due to traumatic experiences and distressing life events that are so overwhelming that the ability to fully process and gain perspective is blocked.

It is theorized that we have an adaptive information processing system built into our nervous system to help us digest our experiences, determining what is useful and necessary and discarding the remaining thoughts, feelings, sensations and physiological arousal that are no longer needed. Sometimes stressful situations overwhelm our adaptive capacities, and we need help jump-starting our adaptive information processing system.

EMDR Therapy facilitates adaptive information processing. It starts with the first history-taking session, continues with the development of positive resources to help cope with overwhelming emotions and circumstances, then moves on to the identification of traumatic experiences to target and the reprocessing of these distressing experiences that block us from optimal functioning. This enables putting the experiences in perspective and achieving adaptive resolution.

The eight phases of EMDR Therapy include:

  1. History-taking
  2. Preparation
  3. Assessment
  4. Desensitization
  5. Installation
  6. Body Scan
  7. Closure
  8. Re-evaluation

EMDR Therapy is a well-researched, effective treatment method for trauma. It can be integrated into traditional “talk” therapy, used as adjunctive psychotherapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment by itself. A typical EMDR Therapy session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, coping abilities, the extent of previous trauma and pragmatic factors will all be considered to determine recommended session length.

While much has been written about the accelerated nature of this form of psychotherapy, the length of treatment varies. Single incident traumatic experiences can sometimes be reprocessed in a few sessions, unless earlier trauma is activated. Chronic trauma is much more complex and can take longer, especially if it occurred during childhood and involved betrayal of trust. Then the preparation phase, involving the development of a trusting therapeutic relationship and other coping resources, may be a more extended process.

The core of EMDR Therapy treatment involves activating components of the traumatic memory or disturbing life event and pairing those components with dual attention stimuli (DAS), also referred to as bilateral stimulation (BLS). Distressing experiences can be reprocessed using eye movements, alternating bilateral sounds or tactile vibrations or tapping that help to activate the associations linking interconnected memories. Once activated, new information about improved capabilities and resources is linked with distressing life experiences and their emotional, somatic and cognitive impact, to help overcome the unresolved issues that interfere with successful living. This can result in the alleviation of presenting symptoms, the reconsolidation of traumatic memories, improved self-esteem and coping capacities, relief from bodily disturbance, and adaptive resolution of present and future anticipated triggers.

If you are considering pursuing EMDR Therapy and have questions or concerns, feel free to give me a call at 973-748-0045 or e-mail me at EMDR@andreabgoldberg.com.


EMDR International Association website

EMDR: The Breakthrough “Eye Movement” Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. & Margot Silk Forrest

The Instinct to Heal: Curing Depression, Anxiety and Stress Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy 
by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber M.D. Ph.D.

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