EMDR is a psychotherapy created by Francine Shapiro in 1987. It is the acronym of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing which can be translated by eye movements of desensitization and reprocessing (of information, of memory…). Its particularity is based on a strict and singular protocol. This protocol is made of precise questions and bilateral stimulation through eye sweeps, knee tapping or auditory signals.
Initially, EMDR was used with people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). This is what EMDR practitioners refer to as grand trauma. Painful, poorly integrated memories that are not traumatic in the manner of PTSD can also be treated with EMDR. These are the situations of significant chronic stress, such as bereavement. EMDR practitioners refer to this as minor trauma.
Several steps will be performed during therapy. The therapist will make a diagnosis and make sure that the patient has the resources available to be treated. Indeed, traumatic memories will be evoked and it is frequent that the sessions are emotionally strong. The care receiver must be able to tolerate the emergence of difficult memories. A metaphor is frequently used that describes EMDR therapy as a train journey to healing. But on this journey, there are stations, stops, a whole set of painful elements that will show up in the memory before reaching the final stage of healing. It should be noted that the protocol will be practiced and repeated as many times as there are poorly integrated or traumatic memories.
EMDR is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that will gradually expose the person to the traumatic memory. Exposure is done by asking specific questions and then allowing the person to freely associate on their ideas, emotions and physical sensations. The desensitization phase to the traumatic memory is done during eye scans. This phase will last for necessary period of time to make the traumatic, painful or poorly integrated aspect of the memories disappear. Self-esteem is also worked on through the exploration and modification of negative thoughts related to the traumatic event.