Comments on
5 Things to Know About EMDR


Many people have heard of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and know just enough to request it.  However, I’m a huge fan of transparency and I think it’s helpful for everyone in the room to have a basic understanding of what we’re after when we’re doing trauma work.  There are many wonderful descriptions of EMDR, like this one that doesn’t need any improvement, so I will pass on providing a full description.

That said, many basic principles of EMDR are helpful for anyone with an interest in trauma, and therapy in general.  I think this is true of any therapy*, so I wanted to started this “5 things about” series to introduce different models and pieces of that can be helpful to trauma survivors and clinicians alike.

8 thoughts on “5 Things to Know About EMDR

  • February 17, 2014 at 6:35 am

    I was intrigued by EMDR when I read of it some time ago. But on doing some research, I discovered that it had been originally created by Dr. Shapiro as a tool for the NLP movement, of which she was an active member and collaborator.

    NLP is certainly a multi million dollar business, has a somewhat shady past from what I have read about it. I have no idea if Dr. Shapiro is still affiliated with them. I found no reference to them on her websites.

    I also read some articles that said there were few reliable studies to back up its effectiveness. And in those that were available, there was no indication that EMDR was any more effective than other therapies.

    So not really sure what to think of it. It almost sounds like a fad. Im not saying that there is no one that benefits from it. Surely there are and that is wonderuful. but the benefit could simply be due to the therapeutic relationship rather than the actual method.

    Let’s say, I’m curious but cautious. Thanks for the information. I like your blog a lot. You espress yourself beautifully.

    Reply
    • February 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Thank you!
      As to its efficacy, there actually is rather robust evidence of its effectiveness in treatment for PTSD, and ISTSS describes it as one of the few “Level A” (top notch) evidence-based practices for trauma. Here is a bibliography that includes 28 randomized control trials that claim positive results–though without reading them I can’t guarantee their quality. I’m more inclined to trust ISTSS, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, and the other expert bodies that vet therapeutic treatments. It’s true though, as you said, that when stacked up against others, it is comparable.

      Reply
      • February 19, 2014 at 6:54 am

        Thank you, Sara.

        Reply
  • February 18, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I am currently undergoing EMDR therapy. I have a lot to work on and it is no “quick fix”. I would be interested in hearing the experiences of others who have tried this therapy. I am currently experiencing a lot of distress between sessions. My therapist feels that I am “processing” during this time and it is helpful to the therapy. Does anyone else experience this?

    Reply
  • February 20, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    What great questions & comments! Dr. Shapiro is not associated with the NLP movement in any way; I have never heard that, and given all the criticism EMDR has had to endure over the last 25 years, I would think it would have emerged by now. The evidence base for EMDR is extensive, as Sara points out, and the research was first published in 1989, about the time the first data came out on CBT. EMDR is as effective in the outcome studies. What sets EMDR therapy apart is that it works faster and doesn’t require homework. The drop-out rate is lower than with PE, CBT, etc. For some individuals, it’s a better fit, because every form of therapy doesn’t work for everyone seeking help. If you try CBT or PE and still suffer from symptoms of unresolved trauma, EMDR may be able to help.

    EMDR is neither a “fad” nor a “newcomer” to the field of psychotherapy. The evidence base is more extensive than almost any other form of psychotherapy, including CBT and PC for trauma. The World Health Organization, APA, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Association of the US Government, and VA have approved the use of EMDR, not something that would take place with a “fad” or “quackery,” like many therapies out there that are readily accepted by the public without any evidence proving their effectiveness.

    Component analysis of EMDR does show the active effect of the eye movements/bilateral stimulation, above and beyond the effect of the relationship with the therapist.

    A good EMDR therapist will be able to help contain the unprocessed material and develop resources to be used between sessions to reduce the processing. Processing outside of the session is not required, and not necessarily a helpful thing. If it’s uncomfortable for you, ask your therapist to help you develop more containment resources to reduce processing between sessions. If your therapist isn’t certain what to do, they can contact an EMDRIA approved consultant in their area to get consultation for the use of EMDR therapy. You or your therapist can go to EMDRIA.org for more information.

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  • April 4, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I had 3 major traumas in my life that triggered PTSD.
    Although the last one was in 1984 I still get flashes and found it difficult to get to sleep at night. I went to see a Clinical Psychologist who suggested EMDR, Due to the time I have lived with the traumas I found one session worked wonders and now I can go to bed and fall asleep without the horrific images flashing into my head, if they do they are a momentary one, as I suppress them.
    I cannot do much about the sound related triggers but I have asked all my friends not to post or send email with anything graphic in them and I can say I am more peaceful than I was, as I was stressed out before the therapy.
    EMDR worked for me, try it, you have nothing to lose.

    Reply
    • April 4, 2014 at 9:20 am

      Usually it takes more than one session but I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better and found relief!

      Reply
  • April 13, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    EMDR saved my relationship with mum after turning her from an aggressive BPD/narcissist to a more compassionate person able to meet her own needs. Yes, she was more unstable between sessions. But we found that boundaries, extreme self-care, and support systems for all really helped us to transcend.

    Reply

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