EMDR was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, Clinical Psychologist, in 1987. Whist trying to resolve a number of distressing personal issues Dr. Shapiro noticed that the emotional impact of the traumatic memories was lessened after a period of bi-lateral stimulation to the brain.
Further research has identified that trauma or phobias can, for some, become lodged within the brain in a manner that makes them irresolvable. As a result the brain acts to understand the experience by continually replaying the trauma in an attempt to help it adapt. This results in symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, preoccupations with the incident and constant rumination. The physical consequences of this include hyper vigilance, exaggerated startle response, sleep difficulties and a heightened sense of arousal and anger, which the brain seeks to avoid. As the toll becomes too great to bear, the person/child is at risk of emotionally detaching from reality. This collection of symptoms forms the basis of a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM IV).
Dr. Shapiro identified that if the memory of the incident(s) is recalled, and at the same time the brain is bi-laterally stimulated (using rapid eye movements), it will allow the brain to re-experience the trauma and the related cognitions that may be hindering and distressing them in the present. Once the trauma has lost its emotional impact and the person has become desensitised to the pain of the memory it is possible to link the memory to a more positive cognition using the same technique (reprocessing).
EMDR has been shown to be both effective with adults and children, and can be used alone to manage recovery from a single traumatic event or from a simple phobia. It is also a useful tool to be included into therapeutic packages with clients who have experienced more chronic trauma histories. The advantage of using EMDR with children is that it can be a relatively speedy model, does not rely on good verbal skills, and can be integrated into a dyadic intervention with both child and carer/parent.
Further information about EMDR can be found at www.emdr.com
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