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Keith Idell


Licensed Clinical Social Worker and EMDR Therapist


And the day came when the need to open up was less painful than the need to remain closed. - Anonymous

EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing

Clients who have suffered for years from anxiety or distressing memories, nightmares, insomnia, abuse, neglect and other traumatic events can now gain relief from a revolutionary new therapy  called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing).  Research shows that EMDR is rapid, safe and effective.  EMDR does not involve the use of drugs or hypnosis.  It is a simple, non-invasive technique in which healing can occur naturally and effectively.


This powerful therapy is highly effective for treating a wide range of disorders including depression, panic attacks, chronic pain, phobias, stress, worry, stage fright and performance anxiety, recovery from physical, emotional and sexual abuse, poor self image and many other traumatic events. Many clients who have made slow progress in the past or who have not benefited from more traditional therapies alone say that with EMDR they have finally found something that works for them! 


Below is a short video clip by CBS News that highlights EMDR and its effective use with multiple traumas. Note: in the video, you'll see lights, headphones and tappers being used. In actual practice, only one method is needed. I lead eye movements with my hands. 



















What is EMDR?

EMDR is an acronym for a new psychotherapeutic technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.


EMDR is a remarkable treatment method used to heal the symptoms of trauma, as well as other emotional conditions. EMDR is the most effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as shown by extensive scientific research studies.


The EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation, right/left eye movement, or tactile stimulation, or sound, which repeatedly activates the opposite sides of the brain releasing emotional experiences that are "trapped" in the nervous system. This method assists the neuro-physiological system, the basis of the mind/body connection, to free itself of blockages and reconnect itself.


EMDR allows a client to process an emotional experience that he/she cannot yet talk about, however following an EMDR session, clients usually find the ability to talk about the experience more freely. Most importantly, it can eliminate stress surrounding the traumatic event, with the purpose of allowing new life in the once traumatized and emotionally difficult memory.


Who discovered EMDR?

In the late 80's, psychologist Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., observed that particular eye movements reduced the intensity of disturbing thoughts in some clients. Dr. Shapiro decided to study this effect scientifically. In 1989, she reported in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, her success using a method she called EMDR to treat victims of trauma. Since that time, other therapists around the world have contributed to its development. EMDR has evolved into a highly effective technique that incorporates elements from various other treatment modalities.


How does EMDR work?

When disturbing experiences occur, they are stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings that accompany it. When a person is very upset, the brain seems to be unable to process the experience as it would normally. Therefore, the negative thoughts and feelings of the traumatic event are "trapped" in the nervous system. Since the brain cannot process these emotions, the experience and/or it's accompanying feelings are often suppressed from consciousness. However, the distress lives on in the nervous system where it causes disturbances in the emotional functioning of the person.


The EMDR Technique does two very important things. First, it "unlocks" the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and second, it helps the brain to successfully process the experience.


The therapist works gently with the client, guiding him or her to revisit the traumatic incident. When the memory is brought to mind, the feelings are re-experienced in a new way. EMDR makes it possible to gain the self-knowledge and perspective that will enable the client to choose their actions, rather than feeling powerless over their re-actions. This process can be simple if there are few experiences or complex if there are many experiences connected to the negative feelings. The EMDR therapy sessions continue until the traumatic memories and emotions are relieved.


What are the advantages of EMDR Therapy?

Research studies show that EMDR is very effective in helping people process emotionally painful and traumatic experiences. When used in conjunction with other therapy modalities, EMDR helps move the client quickly from emotional distress to peaceful resolution of the issues or events involved.


EMDR sessions work amazingly fast, processing even the most difficult memories can be achieved in a fraction of the time it might have taken with traditional therapy alone.

Traditional therapies often focus on memories from the unconscious mind, and then analyze their meaning to gain insight into the problem. EMDR clients also acquire valuable insights during therapy, but EMDR can short-cut the process and go right to the releasing stage.


The positive, long-term results of EMDR therapy affect all levels of the client's well-being -- mental, emotional and physical, so that their responses return to normalcy.

Studies consistently show that treatment with EMDR result in elimination of the targeted emotion. The memory remains but the negative response is neutralized.


What problems are helped by EMDR?

The studies to date show a high degree of effectiveness with the following conditions:


- stage fright
- depression
- anxiety or panic
- phobias
- childhood trauma
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- post traumatic stress
- overwhelming fears
- panic attacks
- low self-esteem
- relationship problems
- excessive worry

- insomnia

- loss of a loved one

- injury of a loved one

- car accident-fire

- work accident

- assault

- robbery

- natural disaster

- injury or illness

- witness to violence

- childhood abuse

- victims of violent crimes

- trauma-performance anxietyI


The EMDR technique is most effective when used in conjunction with other traditional methods of therapy in treating these and many other emotional disorders.

EMDR therapy can help clients replace their anxiety and fear with positive images, emotions and thoughts.


Who can be helped by EMDR?

People who have experienced or witnessed violence, disasters, crimes, sexual assault and other traumas, victims of crime and professionals such as police, emergency workers and firefighters; accident victims and anyone who has experienced a serious loss (such as the death of a close friend of family member, divorce, etc.) can benefit from EMDR. This is also a very effective treatment for people suffering from phobias--fear of flying, water, spiders, etc.


Because EMDR has the power  to relieve any type of emotional block or fear, it can also be used to enhance the performance of athletes, actors, musicians, students, public speakers and executives, and reduce performance anxiety and stage fright.


Are there studies that show that EMDR is effective?

EMDR is the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of PTSD & trauma. There are more controlled studies on EMDR than on any other method . A recent study of individuals who experienced rape, military combat, loss of loved ones, disasters and serious accidents, found that 84-90% had relief of their emotional distress after only three EMDR sessions, while another study showed that EMDR was twice as effective in half the amount of time of standard traditional psychotherapeutic care.


Although some people have dramatic responses in a short period of time, others will progress more slowly. However, the results can be equally effective and long lasting.

Since Dr. Shapiro's initial efficacy study in 1989, world-wide research has helped develop and evolve EMDR. To date, more than half a million people have benefited from EMDR therapy.


What happens during an EMDR session?

Just as EMDR assists the brain with its natural processing of emotional information, the EMDR therapist assists the client in their healing process by becoming a partner on a journey to release past trauma from the client's nervous system.


A typical EMDR session begins with the therapist gently guiding the client to pinpoint a problem or event that will be the target of the treatment. As the thoughts and feelings come to the surface, the therapist and client work together to re-direct the eye movements that accompany the briefly recalled experience. As the eye movements are re-directed, the accompanying emotions are released.


The patterns of eye movements continue until the emotions are neutralized and the event is re-associated with positive thoughts and feelings about oneself, such as" I realize now that it wasn't my fault."


Is there any discomfort involved in the EMDR process?

The EMDR treatment can evoke strong emotions or sensations during a session. This is perfectly normal and desirable, since the technique works on the negative feelings when they are brought into the client's awareness. However, the re-experiencing of these unpleasant feelings is brief and they will soon diminish when the process is completed.


If the client will persevere through the upsetting memories for a short time, he or she will likely be thrilled with the outcome of the therapy. Relief usually occurs rapidly, and for many, permanently.


What happens between EMDR sessions?

Between EMDR sessions, it is a good idea for the client to keep a daily log in which to record any unusual or noteworthy thoughts or feelings. He or she can then bring their notes to the next EMDR session. This log will help the therapist to know if any adjustments in therapy are warranted.


After an EMDR session, there may be a strong sense of relief, a feeling of openness or even euphoria. This is a normal reaction to the release that has taken place.

From time to time, some clients experience unusual thoughts or vivid dreams that may or may not have any meaning. This is part of the releasing process and should not cause undue concern.


Is EMDR Hypnosis?

No. During the EMDR session, the client is awake and alert and in control at all times. The healing that takes place with EMDR is much faster than with hypnotherapy. Like hypnosis, EMDR seems to work with the unconscious mind, bringing into consciousness the repressed thoughts and feelings that must be experienced again in order to release their energetic hold on the person.


What type of training does a therapist need to use EMDR?

Only practicing, licensed psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors may receive EMDR training. These are the only mental health professionals qualified to use EMDR therapy with clients. A clinical background is necessary for proper application of the EMDR technique. This is a highly specialized method that requires supervised training for therapeutic effectiveness and client safety. In the words of the Behavior Therapist Journal, "Clients are at risk if untrained clinicians attempt to use EMDR".  It may be advisable to request the therapist to provide you with their EMDR certificate of training.


How do I know if EMDR is right for me?

There are a number factors to consider when evaluating the appropriateness of EMDR therapy for a client's particular situation and history. During your initial consultation with a trained EMDR therapist, all the relevant factors will be discussed in full to help you both come to a decision to move forward with EMDR.


In general though, you are a good candidate for the EMDR technique if you have ... difficulty trusting people
...fear of being alone
...lack of motivation
...anxiety or panic
...frequent feelings of guilt or shame
...poor concentration or memory
...explosive or irrational anger
...trouble sleeping
...excessive worry

...poor self-image
...serious relationship problems
...stage fright or performance anxiety
...obsessive or compulsive behavior
...chronic feelings of detachment
...extreme, unexplainable fears
...bad temper
...depression or disturbing thoughts
...a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse
...been the victim of a crime or serious accident
...witnessed a crime or serious accident
...been through a natural disaster
...ever experienced a traumatic event


Some Objectives of EMDR Therapy

Thanks to the on-going success of EMDR therapy for hundreds of thousands of people, it is not difficult to have high expectations for a therapy program that includes the EMDR technique.


The short-term benefits of EMDR is simple and straightforward -- the immediate relief of emotional distress and the elimination of the debilitating effect of unresolved past trauma.


The longer-term benefits of EMDR therapy includes the restoration of each client's natural state of emotional functioning. This return to normalcy brings with it a greater sense of personal power, more rewarding relationships and a more peaceful life.

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