Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)


Man staring at a computer screen.

When dealing with serious mental health conditions, considering all options is necessary. From psychotherapy to increasing exercise, any method that has been shown to alleviate symptoms should offer hope to any that suffer from mental disorders as there are many techniques to try. One such technique is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short. EDMR is a fairly new technique and many are wondering what it is and if it could help them.

What is EMDR?

EDMR is psychotherapy that was developed to treat those affected by traumatic memories and negative thoughts. The technique was developed in 1989 by psychologist Francine Shapiro. She discovered the method by happenstance one day while walking through a park. She noticed that her own negative thoughts and emotions were reduced as she rhythmically moved her eyes side-to-side. 
Shapiro went on to conduct studies to assess whether her experience was a commonality among others with traumatic memories. Her results reflected positively on her hypothesis; that being that brief sequential reflection on traumatic memories while focusing on an external stimulus (i.e. a light moving side-to-side, hand-clapping, etc.) will desensitize the reflector to that memory and offer them a chance to reprocess its effect on their life.
Word of the effectiveness of the treatment was pervasive and since Shapiro’s discovery and study of EDMR, many larger studies have been conducted with similar findings. As the technique spread, Shapiro founded the EMDR Institute to continue to assess the efficacy of the treatments.

Is it effective?

EMDR has not been without controversy. Critics often note the small size of the studies and some of Shapiro’s initial methods of spreading the technique. However, the EMDR Institutes sites that over 24 randomized studies empirically validate its effectiveness.
Scientific American took a look at EMDR and compared it to standard behavior and cognitive-behavior therapies as well as just talking to a supportive listener. They found that while EMDR is most likely more effective than supportive listening, behavior therapy is still the most. So, what does this mean for EMDR? It really is just another tool in the tool bag for therapists. While behavior therapy is shown to be the most effective for most people, EMDR offers hope for those that have not responded to behavior therapy. Psychotherapists can utilize EMDR to help those struggling to find treatment.
Seeking therapy for mental health can seem like a hopeless endeavor, especially if treatments have not helped in the past. Our mental health team at Surgical Associates of Grinnell is here to help. We want you to feel like the best you, and offer many methods to help those suffering. Read more about our mental health program or contact us today to see how we can help.

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