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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

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posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 08:29 PM
This method is considered one of the greatest discoveries in the history of psychology. In the mid 90's, when Francine Shapiro discovered it, it was not quite understood why it was so effective in "unwinding" the traumatic memory, but with recent neuroscientific research into the purpose of sleeping and dreaming, a plausible theoretical framework has emerged for why it works.

EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, has spawned many offshoots since it's introduction in the mid 90s. Nowadays, there are movement and eye movement therapies targeting specific types of maladies: attachment focused EMDR, brain-spotting, shock-trauma EMDR. Each of these has proven as or more effective in treating post traumatic stress than anti-depressants and cognitive behavioral therapy. But why does it work, you ask?

When we sleep, our bodies go through something called a sleep cycle.

Recent neuroscientific research into REM sleep has strengthened the theory that sleep, particularly REM sleep, helps the brain to consolidate the days memories through pruning and synthesizing experiences. In particular, whats defused is the emotional content associated with a memory. Everyone knows the adage "let me sleep on it". Which basically means, sleep will give me a more clear and less emotionally distractive perspective of what right now seems too difficult to make a decision about.

EMDR then is manually doing what the brain does through sleeping: it processes the emotional contents associated with a particular memory.

Go ahead, try it to yourself right now.

1) identify a particularly disturbing memory
2) hold the content while you're thinking about it
3) focus on two points to the right and left in your visual viscinity. Look right, and then left. Back and forth. 30 seconds usually suffices, although a minute is generally done.

How do you feel?

This is all hypothetical right now, but most people who try out this technique report feeling an "unwinding" in how they feel.
edit on 19-1-2014 by Astrocyte because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 08:52 PM
reply to post by Astrocyte

This is interesting , I am curious , is this similar or same as tapping
i found this page on tapping but you need money to get any further .

I will give it a go 1%

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 09:09 PM
reply to post by Astrocyte

Interesting. I can achieve this same effect playing Call of Duty .

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 11:21 PM
My wife is a professionally trained psychologist with specific training in EMDR, but she refused to show me the technique behind EMDR. She claimed it was very powerful and could be dangerous if not performed in the presence of a trained mental health professional who is prepared to counsel as the traumatic emotions erupt. Apparently it can unleash some pretty powerful emotions that were suppressed.

posted on Jan, 20 2014 @ 08:04 AM
reply to post by okachobi

Interesting. My mom was a professional clinical psychotherapist who specialized in EMDR (she's now retired). She showed me how it works...she gave me a few sessions during very difficult times of my life.

To me, it was rather like someone trying to 'hypnotize' me - I complied with her instructions, watched her hand motions, and yes, it does feel a bit like "unwinding" - but it's more about "reprocessing" - she would pause after a few minutes, and ask "where do you feel the 'pain' (discomfort) in your body now?"

Depending on where the 'pain' focuses - in your throat, in your heart, in your stomach - a practitioner can get closer to what "sort" of emotional upset one is dealing with (grief, rage, sorrow, remorse, etc).

She says it helped dozens of clients, and still promotes it. I'm not sure about it being 'all hypothetical' as the OP said; it's been shown to have pretty profound effects.

reply to post by Astrocyte

Can you please provide us the source of your information as provided?
I want to check it out (for credibility). I, also, was a trained therapist (now retired) - but not a specialist in EMDR.

posted on Jan, 20 2014 @ 01:13 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

She says it helped dozens of clients, and still promotes it. I'm not sure about it being 'all hypothetical' as the OP said; it's been shown to have pretty profound effects.

What's "hypothetical" is the neurobiological mechanism of action. Scientists want this sort of explanation before they advocate EMDR.

There is still a lot of controversy about it. Many psychologists and psychotherapists use it in their practice. But others are just hard to convince skeptics.

I wouldn't have started this thread if I didn't think EMDR had a sound theoretical basis. But there's still a lot of debate about what it's actually doing within the brain that allows the traumatic memory to become processed.

The most convincing explanation is the postulated effect REM sleep has in processing the days emotions (particularly the highly energized ones). Another explanation says the eye-movements are irrelevant, and whats actually inducing the effects are bilateral movements - back and forth - which activates both hemispheres. This is why tapping is often integrated with EMDR therapy. Trauma effects how the right brain communicates with the left brain - whats called horizontal integration. It also affects vertical integration between the autonomic, limbic and cortical networks (which is a result of right/left brain dysfunction). Since the left side of the body is controlled by the right brain (right motor cortex), and the right is controlled by the left brain (left motor cortex), carrying out actions that activate left-right brain communication - while a memory is being reflected upon and felt - integrates right and left brain processing, at the motor (autonomic) emotional (limbic) and cortical (memory) levels. It's an ingenious method that takes advantage of what we know about how the brain works. When one network is activated - motor movements, which recruits autonomic/brain stem areas - and is combined with another area - activation of the traumatic memory and emotions, which activates areas in the prefrontal cortex, the insula, cingulate cortex, and the basal ganglia - they become "coded" together. Bilateral communication in the brain is dysregulated following trauma; EMDR, and tapping, helps to reestablish normal patterns of bilateral communication.

posted on Jan, 20 2014 @ 01:14 PM
reply to post by Astrocyte

It does sound like hypnosis...or at least this idea of eye muscle fatigue does. If we think of the archetypal hypnotist swinging a watch in front of our eyes or even the the witch ball hung high in the rafters. All designed to tire the eye muscles.

The idea that dreaming somehow divests memory of the impact of emotive contents resulting in clearer thinking might have some merit but it could also just be that a good nights sleep does just the same thing. That is...having a little distance from the situation at hand.

Perhaps the hypnotic trance is really just the the dream state without the dream or motor inhibition.
Perhaps dreams and dreaming are not important or relevant to anything at all but are merely by-products of the brains regularity cycle.

I can see that there may be some sort of connection established as the eye muscles are always switched on during REM sleep.


posted on Jan, 20 2014 @ 02:23 PM
I had this treatment and was told it would work in six sessions, it didn't.

Later i found out that the therapist who conducted the treatment did it wrong. This was at one of The Priory hospitals here in the UK.

All i'm saying is if you do have this therapy, make sure as much you can that you are getting the right thing.

I have heard good things about it though when done properly.


posted on Jan, 20 2014 @ 03:11 PM
reply to post by midicon

The idea that dreaming somehow divests memory of the impact of emotive contents resulting in clearer thinking might have some merit but it could also just be that a good nights sleep does just the same thing. That is...having a little distance from the situation at hand.

Perhaps there is a similarity between hypnosis and EMDR, but they aren't the same thing, and it makes no sense trying to explain EMDR by citing hypnosis. We don't even know what is happening within the brain when hypnosis is conducted. I'd imagine that it is trying to bias implicit memory networks by injecting visceral images and patterns that can supplant the dysregulated patterns coded in the right hemisphere.

Since the right hemisphere handles non-verbal information, such as emotions, gestures, etc, and the left hemisphere handles verbal information, and neuroscience has associated negative affect with arousal in the right orbital medial prefrontal cortex, and positive affect with arousal in the left orbital medial prefrontal cortex, hypnosis - like meditation, EMDR, and other therapies which try to reprocess implicit memory networks - can have the effect of "unwinding" the arousal patterns that lead to dysregulation, i.e. anxiety, obsessiveness, resulting in less lateralized and more integrated prefrontal activity. Which is experienced as reduced tension, anxiety, i.e negative affect.
edit on 20-1-2014 by Astrocyte because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 16 2015 @ 01:31 PM
a reply to: Astrocyte

I found this old thread from doing a search on ATS and am replying to it in the hopes that others see it and relate any experiences they have had with EMDR.
EMDR has gotten my attention from my therapist who is doing it with me for PTSD. He encouraged me to look it up on the web and what I've found is that a lot of people are having success with it. I found a few youtube videos, and the one here that I'm posting seems to have worked for me. I'm going to re-watch it whenever I can, and also do the EMDR with my therapist. It's called "Paper Boats". It's best to wear headphones, as it's done by audio left/right stimulation.

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