EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) helps clients process traumatic experiences and get past their past.
This month we had the pleasure of speaking to EDMR creator Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., whose book, Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy, was recently published.
In our interview, Shapiro shares more about the book along with how she discovered EMDR, how it works and the research that supports it.
Click through to read an excerpt from the interview.
1. How did you discover EMDR?
I discovered the effects of the eye movements that are now used in EMDR therapy one day as I was taking a walk. I noticed that disturbing thoughts I had been having had disappeared and when I brought them back they didn’t have the same “charge.” I was puzzled since I hadn’t done anything deliberately to deal with them.
So I started paying careful attention and noticed that when that kind of thought came up, my eyes started moving rapidly in a certain way and the thoughts shifted out of consciousness. When I brought them back they were less bothersome.
So, I started doing it deliberately and found the same results. Then I experimented with about 70 people. During that time I developed additional procedures to achieve consistent effects.
I tested the procedures in a randomized study that was published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 1989. Then I continued the development of the procedures and published a textbook on EMDR therapy in 1995.
2. Can you give us a glimpse into an EMDR session with a client with PTSD?
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase approach. It begins with a history-taking phase that identifies the current problems and the earlier experiences that have set the foundation for the different symptoms, and what is needed for a fulfilling future.
Then a preparation phase prepares the client for memory processing. The memory is accessed in a certain way and processing proceeds with the client attending briefly to different parts of the memory while the information processing system of the brain is stimulated.
Brief sets of eye movements, taps or tones are used (for approximately 30 seconds) during which time the brain makes the needed connections that transform the “stuck memory” into a learning experience and take it to an adaptive resolution. New emotions, thoughts and memories can emerge.
What is useful is learned, and what is now useless (the negative reactions, emotions and thoughts) is discarded. A rape victim, for example, may begin with feelings of shame and fear, but at the end of the session report: “The shame is his, not mine. I’m a strong resilient woman.”