Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was created by DR Francine Shapiro, a Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, USA. It is an innovative clinical treatment, which has successfully helped over one million people who have experienced psychological difficulties which originate from some kind of traumatic experience, such as sexual abuse, childhood neglect, road traffic accidents and violence. EMDR is also successful in treating other complaints such as performance anxiety, self-esteem issues, phobias, and other trauma related anxiety disorders.
EMDR therapy is a scientifically supported treatment for PTSD recommended by numerous organizations internationally (e.g., World Health Organization, 2013). It is characterized by standardized procedures and protocols that include a bilateral sensorial stimulation such as repeated eye movements, aimed at processing and working through memories of trauma and other adverse life experiences.
Normally, the individual processes traumatic experiences naturally. However, when a person is severely traumatized, either by an overwhelming event or by being repeatedly subjected to distress, this healing process may become overloaded, leaving the original disturbing experiences unprocessed. These unprocessed memories can be stored in the brain in a "raw" form where they can be continually re-evoked when experiencing events that are similar to the original experience.
EMDR utilizes the natural healing ability of the brain and allows it to heal psychological problems at the same rate as the rest of the body heals physical wounds. Because EMDR allows the mind and body to heal at the same rate, treatment can be rapid. The number of sessions required for EMDR treatment, however, will vary according to the complexity of the issues being dealt with. In general, the more isolated the traumatic memory being treated, the shorter the treatment tends to be.
There have been over 24 controlled studies supporting the efficacy of EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method in the treatment of trauma. The most recent studies with people suffering from a range of events such as rape, combat, bereavement, accidents, natural disasters etc. have found that 84 - 90% of the participants no longer had Post-traumatic Stress Disorder following EMDR treatment. A study conducted at Kaiser Permanente have reported that 100% of single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple-trauma victims no longer had PTSD after a mean of six 50-minute EMDR therapy sessions. Given its wide application, EMDR promises to be the therapy of the future.