EMDR was created/discovered by Francine Shapiro in 1987. She discovered it whilst she was going through a difficult, unhappy and stressful time in her life and she noticed that those feelings were lessened by moving her eyes.
She tested these eye movements on others and the outcome was the same as she herself had experienced. However it soon become apparent that eye movement alone was not sufficient so she added other components to develop a procedure she originally called Eye Movement Desensitisation (EMD)
Randomly assigning 22 people to either EMD or guided imagery, she ran a case study to test the effectiveness of EMD. It showed significant decreases in scores for distress and significant increases in confidence and positive belief.
Responding to feedback from patients she went on to develop the treatment and in 1991 changed the name to EMDR to reflect the cognitive changes that occurred in patients and to identify the information processing that took place.
Hundreds of case studies have since been published since the initial studies were published in 1989. These studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of EMDR in the treatment of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and it is now recognised as efficacious in the treatment of PTSD in both the UK and US.
The approach was developed initially as a treatment for PTSD and found great success with veterans of the Vietnam War and survivors of rape. In 2000 EMDR was recognised by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies as and effective treatment.
In Northern Ireland, a subgroup of the Department of Health CREST, followed suit in 2003 as did the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2005.
EMDR has also been considered highly effective and is supported by research in the practice guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the US Department of Defence and Veterans Affairs
HOW IT WORKS
EMDR is used in the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, fears and phobias and regulating traumatic experiences such as rape, child abuse and PTSD. It can also be used to negate any negative emotion which is hampering the individual experiencing it. In normal everyday life sensory information is passed through the Amygdala, the emotional filter in the right half of the brain. If this experience does not contain anything traumatic, the information then passes through to the Hippocampus which then processes it, and then allows it to pass to the left hemisphere where it is stored as a normal memory.
When our experience is highly emotionally charged or traumatic (which is dependent on each individual’s ability to cope or process this information) it can get ‘stuck’ in the right hemisphere of the brain and therefore the experience does not get processed properly. This then means that for some individuals they will continue to relive the experience preventing them to move forward.
EMDR is used to help those individuals reprocess their negative experiences and emotions by using repeated left-right (bilateral) stimulation of the brain while experiencing actual aspects of the memory and emotions associated with it.
It is believed that this bilateral stimulation of EMDR creates biochemical changes in the brain that aid the processing of the negative emotions and experiences.