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Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapeutic approach developed by Francine Shapiro to resolve symptoms resulting from exposure to life disturbing experience(s) or a traumatic or seriously distressing event. Clinical trials have demonstrated EMDR's efficacy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  And it has been shown to be more effective than some alternative treatments and equivalent to cognitive behavioral and exposure therapies.

The theoretical model underlying EMDR treatment hypothesizes that EMDR works by processing distressing memories.  EMDR is based on a theoretical information processing model which suggests that symptoms arise when events are inadequately processed, and can be eliminated when the memory is fully processed.  It is an integrative therapy, fusing elements of many traditional psychological orientations, such as psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, experiential, physiological, and interpersonal therapies.

What should I expect during a
session using EMDR?

EMDR's most controversial aspect is the unusual component of dual attention stimulation, such as eye movements, bilateral sound, or bilateral tactile stimulation. The founder of EMDR, Francine Shapiro, while walking in the park in 1987, discovered that side to side eye movements appeared to decrease the negative emotion associated with her own distressing memories. She decided to incorporate this new component into cognitive restructuring therapy for traumatic memories.

In an EMDR session, a specific distressing or traumatic experience is identified for the focus of the session. The client is instructed to focus on an image, a corresponding negative thought, and body sensations associated with the traumatic memory while experiencing bilateral stimulation.  In my office this is generally done with the use of hand held pulsars that vibrate alternately. 

The kind of dual attention and the length of each set is customized to the need of the client. The client is instructed to “just notice” whatever happens. After this, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind.  Depending upon the client's report, the clinician will facilitate the next focus of attention.  In most cases, a client-directed association process is encouraged. This is repeated numerous times throughout the session.  If the client becomes distressed or has difficulty with the process, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client resume processing.  When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, the clinician asks him/her to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session, or a better one if it has emerged, and to focus on the incident, while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation.  After several sets, clients generally report increased confidence in this positive belief. The therapist checks with the client regarding body sensations. If there are negative sensations, these are processed as above. If there are positive sensations, they are further enhanced.

The decrease in the level of disturbance that the targeted memories or issues elicit after EMDR, more often than not, remain negligent and afford clients a level of peace before unknown to them.  They are then able to RESPOND much more effectively in the face of similar stimuli in the future. This is incredibly empowering and boosts one’s level of confidence beyond measure.

This therapeutic technique has been shown to be highly effective in the course of individual work as well as relationship oriented counseling.

I have had some phenomenal results when using this with clients. Peace can be attained and maintained. Things that previously sent a client into a tailspin and created reactivity that felt out of control, can be transformed and no longer have ANY negative impact. It’s been mind-blowing to witness ... and to experience.  I invite you to come in and check it out; see what it can do to improve your life!






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St. Petersburg, FL 33702