• If the past is getting in the way of the quality of your life, consider EMDR which stands for
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Effectiveness of EMDR
• EMDR was given the highest level of recommendation (category for robust empirical support and demonstrated effectiveness) in the treatment of trauma. American Psychiatric Association (2004). Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines.
by Dr. David E. Dillon
•EMDR was placed in the "A" category as “strongly recommended” for the treatment of trauma. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense (2004). VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress.
More about EMDR
WHAT IS EMDR?
EMDR uses right brain/left brain stimulation (visually, tactically, and/or audibly) while counselees focus on a distressing memory, with the result of desensitizing the memory until it has little or no effect on them.
Francine Shapiro serendipitously discovered the effect of eye movement when she would walk in a park while at the same time thinking about troublesome issues. Her emotional pain decreased, a phenomenon that puzzled her so much that she began to investigate why this happened. Shapiro hypothesized that the increased eye movements, occurring naturally in a scenic setting, had something to do with the reduction in emotional pain associated with her issues.
Armed with this clue, she experimented with eye movement in therapy, discovering that her clients needed some guidance to get their eyes to move during the therapy session. Shapiro started using her hand to help guide their eyes while they focused on painful memories. Similar to her experience in the park, they began to recover.
Shapiro designed a study with a treatment and control group, but when she learned that the treatment group was getting better and the control group was not, she treated both groups out of concern for their pain.1Compassion has guided Shapiro's decisions about the dissemination of information and training of EMDR therapists.
My own experience also supports positive results with EMDR. I have used EMDR in a single session to relieve symptoms resulting from witnessing an auto accident where several children were injured to one case that lasted 10 months, involving childhood emotional and physical abuse. Before learning EMDR, I would not have had the same success with such cases, other than to work through the memories and encourage the sufferer to know where the pain is coming from and then focusing on the present and future. But now, cases like these are resolved, and the client happily terminates, reporting no need for further help.
Another case involved a woman who for all of her adult life had a lingering dissatisfaction with life. She was constantly looking for "something" to satisfy a deep longing within. We decided to try EMDR and, in one double session, we discovered memories connected to her understanding of sex and her sexuality. We worked through her memory of how she had learned about heterosexuality, how disgusted she had felt, and her conclusion as a child that she was not like the neighbor kids who told her about sex and who appeared happy about what they knew.
We also worked through a teenage memory of learning that she had been sexually abused as an infant. These and other unprocessed memories had led her to conclude that she was bad. When we faced this cognition with EMDR, she worked through not only the shame and guilt but also the false conclusion about her own sexuality. At the end of that EMDR session, she reported that a great weight had been lifted and those memories were now faded and unimportant.
Success like this is a regular experience for me. But none of this comes without considerable emotional pain. EMDR is not effortless emotionally for the counselee or the therapist. We must be willing to experience their pain as it is desensitized. Yet EMDR therapists continue to practice it because it works--people get better--and EMDR counselees return for subsequent sessions--even though the last one was painful--because they find permanent relief from distressing memories and their influence on their lives.
Since learning EMDR, I have terminated more satisfied counselees than in the same time period before EMDR. Counselees spontaneously and enthusiastically report how much better they feel and think. Before EMDR, people I had treated might, after several years, tell me how much I had helped them, or I would learn indirectly from another person that a previous counselee appreciated the therapy he or she had with me. EMDR has revolutionized my counseling practice.
DOES IT WORK
Anyone who sincerely learns and practices EMDR knows that it works. Thousands of clinicians are claiming the success of EMDR as well as numerous people who have been helped. The good news is that solid research is beginning to appear in journals. Wilson, Becker, and Tinker report significant decreases in anxiety and increased positive cognition regarding stressful experiences of 80 participants.8 The study employed an independent assessor and several EMDR therapists who were strictly monitored. Above average statistical procedures were employed to assure accurate results.
Some have said, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." The same is true for EMDR. If you're looking for proof, first look within. Are there memories that still seem vivid and laden with emotion? Do they interfere with your quality of life? Like the "proof of the pudding," tasting EMDR for yourself is the best way to determine its effectiveness and veracity.
David E. Dillon, Ed.D., is associate professor at Trinity international University in Deerfield,
- F. Shapiro, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (New York: Guilford, 1995), p. 39.
- K. Butler, "Too Good To Be True?" Family Therapy Networker 6 (1993): 25.
- D. Dillon, Short Term Counseling (Waco, TX: Word, 1992), pp. 180ff.
- M. Wylie, "Going for the Cure," Family Therapy Networker 4 (1996).
- Ibid., p. 31.
- Ibid., p. 32.
- Ibid., p. 37.
S. Wilson, L. Becket, and R. Tinker, "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Treatment for Psychologically Traumatized Individuals," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 63 (1995): 928-37.
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