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E is for EMDR

Author: null null Published: 4th August 2012 18:57

Question mark in headIf you can cope with the acronyms, this is a therapy that's little known by the public but is actually available on the NHS in some areas.

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, is a therapy developed by Dr Francine Shapiro, an American clinical psychologist, in the 1980s. The main benefits of EMDR are seen in the treatment of psychological trauma, arising from experiences such as war related experiences, road traffic accidents, surgical trauma, childhood abuse or neglect.

The therapy evolved from a chance observation by Dr.Shapiro that moving her eyes from side to side appeared to reduce the disturbance of negative thoughts and memories.

Working with approximately 70 volunteers, she developed standardized procedures to maximize therapeutic outcomes, conducted additional research and a published randomized controlled study with trauma victims. After further research and elaboration of the methodology, she published a textbook in 1995 detailing the eight phases of this form of psychotherapy.[1]

In the UK, EMDR is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and is officially available on the NHS.[2]

The reasons for the effectiveness of EMDR remain unknown. It seems that using rapid eye movements relieves the anxiety and ‘trapped emotions' associated with the traumatic event, so that the original event can be viewed from a more detached perspective. The outcome is that the memory remains, but its much less upsetting.

As with so many therapies, the scientific validity of this approach is much disputed, but its use is approved internationally to help people recovering from disasters and war experiences.

For more information about EMDR, try this link: http://www.emdrassociation.org.uk/home/index.htm


[1]Shapiro, F. (1995). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. New York: Guilford Press.

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