When a disturbing event occurs it gets locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. The brain is equipped to manage and process adversity, but there are certain negative experiences that can elude a person’s natural processing ability and the brain’s ability to integrate the trauma and release it. This may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep often resulting in nightmares.
As a result of the unresolved trauma, disturbing memories continue to replay through the mind and various triggers such as place, smells, people, and similar situations bring up the distressing feelings and thoughts related to the unresolved issue. The bilateral stimulations used may help to re-process the frozen material. Clients are able to process the memory in a manner that leads to peaceful resolution. It is the client’s own brain that will be doing the healing and the client is the one in control.
Francine Shapiro, an American Psychologist developed EMDR in the late 1980’s. EMDR is considered to be a highly effective first line treatment of trauma (American Psychiatric Association, 2004), as it has the capacity to overcome the devastating effects of psychological trauma. These disturbing life experiences contribute to clinical problems and overall health.
“EMDR is now accepted as a treatment of choice by numerous mental health departments and trauma organizations. EMDR has a broad base of published case reports and controlled research that supports it as an empirically validated treatment of trauma and other adverse life experiences. The Department of Defence/Department of Veterans Affairs Practice Guidelines have placed EMDR in the highest category, recommended for all trauma populations at all times. In addition, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies current treatment guidelines have designated EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD (Foa, Keane, Friedman, & Cohen, 2009) as have the Departments of Health of both Northern Ireland and Israel, which have indicated EMDR to be one of only two or three treatments of choice for trauma victims. Most recently, the World Health Organization (2013) has stated that trauma-focused CBT and EMDR are the only psychotherapies recommended for children, adolescents, and adults with PTSD” (www.emdr.com)