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Trauma can arise from many types of incidents including rape, accidents e.g. involving vehicles or machinery, childhood abuse, assualt, being a victim of crime etc. Sometimes we do not fully process a problem and it becomes locked away in a closed loop in the mind. Some people replay the incident as repetive negative thoughts or nightmares, or they wish they could have done something to prevent it happening. Partial processing can leave people with negative self beliefs, such as feling helpless, stupid, dirty, selfish, clumsy, worthless, unable to form new relationships, in capable and so on.
1. What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b). Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing model posits that EMDR facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories to bring these to an adaptive resolution. After successful treatment with EMDR, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. During EMDR the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Therapist directed lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus but a variety of other stimuli including hand-tapping and audio stimulation are often used (Shapiro, 1991). Shapiro (1995) hypothesizes that EMDR facilitates the accessing of the traumatic memory network, so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations are thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights. EMDR uses a three pronged protocol:
(1) the past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction are processed, forging new associative links with adaptive information;
(2) the current circumstances that elicit distress are targeted, and internal and external triggers are desensitized;
(3) imaginal templates of future events are incorporated, to assist the client in acquiring the skills needed for adaptive functioning.