EMDR is an American Psychiatric Association approved treatment modality for post traumatic stress disorder, and in my experience, the most effective treatment modality for all aspects of PTSD, even those which do not respond well to medication, like insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional overwhelm, social isolation and avoidance. EMDR is also very effective for what we refer to as "small t " traumas, those chronic, non-life threatening, emotional abuses or humiliations which come back to haunt people (as opposed to the "big T" life-threatening trauma necessary for the diagnosis of PTSD, i.e. an earthquake, combate, rape). It can help people with various phobias, like fear of driving, public speaking, social phobia. In short, it is very useful to treat any current anxiety/dysfunctions a person has related to past experiences. My work as the psychiatrist at Mirasol, the holistic eating disorder facility and at the Native American Tribe convinced me that EMDR is revolutionary and that I must be trained and offer it in my private practice.
Very few psychiatrists are trained in EMDR because it is a relatively new technique and honestly, seemed a little hokey until the research started to demonstrate what a powerful tool it is. Although there are superficial EMDR trainings, it is very important to ensure that your EMDR clinician has been through the training developed by the EMDR Institute which is run by the woman who pioneered the practice, Francine Shapiro, PhD. This training is extensive and expensive. It involves 6 days of workshops, tests to demonstrate competency and 10 hours of supervision.
What is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing):
EMDR is a comprehensive psychotherapy approach (distinct from psychodynamic, CBT, experiential, etc) guided by an informational processing model of learning. It is based on the idea that disruptions to the information processing system result in disturbing memories that are dysfunctionally stored as they were experienced and perceived at the time of the event. Perceptions of current situations link into the networks of physically stored memories in order to be interpreted. If a memory network contains an unprocessed memory, the current perceptions are informed by the earlier dysfunctional emotions, thoughts/beliefs and sensations of the past event. EMDR seems to stimulate the information and allows the brain to reprocess the experience. This may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep. The eye movements may help to process the unconscious material. It is your own brain that will be doing the healing and you are the one in control.
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