“A typical neuron makes about ten thousand connections to neighboring neurons. Given the billions of neurons, this means there are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.” (David Eagleman)
EMDR is a therapeutic approach that was first used in the United States of America in 1987. The acronym EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Doctor Francine Shapiro casually discovered, whilst she walked through the university campus, that by making certain eye movements, the number of negative thoughts and feelings reduced. Following this discovery, she started to investigate further. We should note that this phenomenon was also recognised by other people, which led to a more thorough investigation. The results indicated that this bilateral eye movement produced activity in the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It is believed that EMDR acts on certain neuron circuits (pre-frontal area, hippocampus, corpus callosum, cerebellum) thus enabling the integration of traumatic memories (read about Trauma).
In its beginnings, EMDR was applied in trauma therapy treatments, today it is recognised as one of the main therapies in this area. It has been used in the psychological treatment of veterans of the Vietnam War, people held in refugee camps, and in the treatment of severe traumas caused as a result of abuse, rape, natural catastrophes, serious accidents, the death of a loved one, etc.
EMDR also uses strategies and ideas from other therapeutic and theoretical focuses, like the theories of attachment, ego-state therapy, hypnosis, NLP etc. and it is also being integrated into different therapeutic orientations. Today, in addition to being used to treat trauma, it is applied to other types of psychological disorders, like depression, anxiety, obsession, addictions, emotional instability, as well as in the improvement of sporting performance, communication skills or stage fright.
The use of EMDR in the treatment of a major trauma (an accident, a natural catastrophe, etc.) will be different to how it is applied to other types of psychological difficulties. Although it seems paradoxical, in the majority of cases the therapy process for a major trauma normally requires a shorter treatment period. However, the therapeutic intervention in other emotional disorders includes the first negative experiences as the origin of the development of such conditions that we suffer from. For this reason, it is important to go over the negative events in our lives starting from our mother’s womb, which is when our nervous system starts to develop up to present day. That is why therapy can take longer in these circumstances.
EMDR is used in the treatment of adults, adolescents and children.
Nowadays, bilateral eye stimulation, tactile stimulation by means of “tapping” or auditory stimulation are also used.
Many people respond positively and benefit from using this method. Nevertheless, in the same way as in other therapeutic approaches, a prior evaluation of the patient is necessary in order to assess if the use of EMDR is the most suitable treatment.