EMDR is a powerful treatment approach used to deal with traumatic stress. Originally developed in 1987 by Fracine Shapiro, EMDR assists in reprocessing traumatic memories. When the brain processes trauma, the neurons store the memory differently than non-traumatic memories. At the time of a traumatic event, strong emotions interfere with our ability to completely process the experience and one moment becomes “frozen in time.” The neural processing of memories is interrupted. Recalling the traumatic event may feel as though the person is reliving the event all over again because the images, smells, sounds, and feelings are still there and can be triggered in the present. When activated, these memories cause a negative impact on our daily functioning and interfere with the way we see ourselves and our world, and how we relate to others. EMDR allows for normal processing of the memory to resume by utilizing the same movements that naturally occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It appears that using rapid eye movements assists in the memory being re-coded in the brain in the way a normal memory would be coded. This relieves the anxiety associated with the trauma so that the original event can be examined from a more detached perspective, somewhat like watching a movie of what happened. This enables you to access positive ways of re-framing the original trauma (reprocessing), and to release the body’s stored negative emotional charges around it (desensitization).
Numerous research studies have shown that EMDR can be successful in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and can reduce the symptoms and anxiety, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks associated with this condition. It is also increasingly being used to address many other 'stuck' or distressing conditions and issues, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, and complicated grief.