Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, emotional distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. It is a powerful psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It has been practiced around the world for the past 25 years and is an accepted treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, Veterans Administration, Department of Defense, World Health Organization, and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. In EMDR, the therapist leads a client in a series of eye-movements or other types of bilateral stimulation (tactile or auditory) while the client focuses on various aspects of a disturbing memory. During this procedure, clients process the memory often in a positive and rapid way that leads to peaceful resolution.
“EMDR assists survivors in the immediate aftermath of violent trauma by breaking through the walls of denial, shock, grief and anger. It is ideal for those who have been unable to forget past traumatic life events, as it allows for a rapid processing of even deeply rooted memories, giving individuals back control of their lives and emotions” – Dusty Bowencamp, American Red Cross
From Trauma Recovery, EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs:
- EMDR therapy has been listed as an effective treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the World Health Organization, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and numerous other international organizations.
- More than a dozen studies support the use of EMDR therapy for trauma resulting from natural disaster and treatment of war- and terrorism-related trauma.
- With little modification, EMDR has been used successfully in response to a variety of mass-casualty events such as community homicide and can be integrated with educational formats.
- EMDR therapy has a positive impact on intrusive imagery (such as nightmares or flashbacks), numbing, and hyperarousal symptoms or PTSD, as well as on associated grief and depression.
- In several direct comparisons with cognitive-behavioral therapy, EMDR offers equivalent effects more quickly (fewer sessions and/or no homework), and process analyses indicate less distress for individuals undergoing treatment.
Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of Early EMDR Interventions (EEI) to significantly reduce traumatic stress, with preliminary evidence that they may foster resilience. There is ongoing research on the effectiveness of EMDR therapy:
Click here for a PDF of EMDR research compiled by Trauma Recovery/HAP.
Click here for a link to the Francine Shapiro Library which has a growing collection of materials on trauma and EMDR theory practice and history.
Click here for a compilation of EMDR research by the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA)
Click here for SAMHSA’s information resource on EMDR Therapy.
Relevant Journal Articles on Early EMDR Intervention:
- EMDR Treatment of Recent Events and Community Disasters (and other selected articles) Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- EMDR Treatment of Recent Trauma. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- The EMDR Protocol for Recent Critical Incidents: Brief report of an application in a human massacre situation. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- The Recent-Traumatic Episode Protocol: Outcome Evaluation and Analysis of Three Case Studies. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- The EMDR Protocol for Recent Critical Incidents: Application in a Disaster Mental Health Continuum of Care Context. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- A Randomised Comparison of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) in Disaster Exposed Children, European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Click here
- The EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol: Application With Child Victims of a Mass Disaster, Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- Building Resilience and Dismantling Fear: EMDR Group Protocol With Children in an Area of Ongoing Trauma, Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- The EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol: Application With Adults During Ongoing Geopolitical Crisis, Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- The Provision of an EMDR-Based Multicomponent Trauma Treatment With Child Victims of Severe Interpersonal Trauma, Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol: A Postdisaster Trauma Intervention for Children and Adults, Traumatology. Click here
- The Provision of an EMDR-Based Multicomponent Trauma Treatment with Child Victims of Severe Interpersonal Trauma, Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Click here
- The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experience, The Permanente Journal. Click here
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