EMDR Therapy and Trauma

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
By Karen McIntyre, LMFT

EMDR therapy is a comprehensive and integrative psychotherapy approach developed
in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro. EMDR contains elements from many well-known and highly respected psychotherapy models such as psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential and body centered therapy. Research has proven it’s effectiveness in over 22 clinical studies. EMDR is a 3-pronged approach; it works with
1) the present difficulties, (2) the previous traumatic experiences that set the basis for the current problems and their triggers and (3) assists clients in developing the positive experiences needed to enhance future functioning and desired behaviors.

PET scans and MRI’s have shown that traumatic experiences, large or small, are stored in the right hemisphere of the brain with all its accompanying memories, pictures, sounds, smells, tastes, adrenal responses, body sensations, and resulting decisions about self, the world and others. In other words, your brain takes a “flashbulb picture” of the trauma and everything your body, mind and emotions experienced, storing it for future reference as a warning. The problem is often the traumatic memories are triggered along with those past sensations, thoughts, and emotions causing an irrational response in the present situation. It’s like looking at present life or relationships through past-trauma colored glasses. In this way, the past trauma, large or small, can continue to affect a person long after the event is over. This can cause problems such as: anxiety, panic, depression, relational problems and insecurity.

If this description sounds like something you (or a loved one) are experiencing, working with a trained EMDR psychotherapist will help you move from current difficulties to examine, desensitize, and reprocess the trauma roots. The memory is still there, but instead of being in “living color” it is often described by clients as a black and white photograph: it is a memory without the pain attached. Your EMDR therapist will then help you build new healthy and functional thoughts and beliefs, anchoring them to your future so that you have the inner-strength to live in the freedom that you desire. This “resource building” can be applied to many other areas of life too.

EMDR has been a gold standard treatment for veterans, PTSD survivors, rape and abuse victims, and anyone who has had traumatic events, large or small, that are still affecting them today. It is also commonly used in the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.