What is EMDR therapy?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy originally developed for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With more than 20 randomized clinical trials and several meta-analyses confirming its effectiveness, EMDR therapy is now recognized internationally as an efficacious therapy in the PTSD practice guidelines of organizations and agencies such as the World Health Organization and U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.  EMDR therapy is also used for a wide range of trauma-related psychological conditions.

In EMDR therapy, symptoms and disorders are viewed as manifestations of distressing memories which were not adequately processed.  These memories, with their related emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and sensations, are understood to be stored in isolation, unable to link into the wider memory network.  When triggered, symptoms flare and perceptions are skewed. However, when these maladaptive memories are processed with EMDR, there is a reduction or elimination of disturbing emotions, associated symptoms, and presenting problems. At the same time, there is an increase in insight and a broader understanding of the memories. The person often feels the trauma is truly “over” and is more resilient to future challenges.

EMDR therapy uses a structured eight-phase approach, and a three-pronged protocol to address past, present and future aspects of the presenting problem.  During EMDR, clients briefly focus on the trauma memory and simultaneously experience bilateral stimulation (BLS), which can include the use of eye movements and/or bilateral tones or taps.

Although therapy is usually provided individually on a once-weekly basis, research has shown the effectiveness of intensive treatment – for example, with sessions twice daily for one or two weeks. EMDR therapy is helpful for individuals of all ages, from children as young as two years to elderly adults, and with those of various sexual orientations. It has been widely used internationally, with cultural adaptations easily achieved. Other features of EMDR therapy make it particularly adaptable to humanitarian crises such as being client-centered, working well with translators, not requiring disclosure of client’s thoughts, group intervention protocols and requiring no homework.

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What is EMDR Early Intervention (EMDR EI)?

EMDR Early Interventions (EIs) are EMDR-based procedures that were developed to treat individuals and groups after a recent traumatic event. They are used to address the fragmented nature of memories of recent events, before the memory is consolidated into an integrated whole. The interventions are usually provided as short-term treatments, and can be administered in an intensive (e.g., daily) manner, as group therapy or individual therapy. They have been widely and successfully used, providing relief and resolution to thousands around the world.
Although more research is needed, a number of research studies have shown that EMDR EI treatments significantly reduce traumatic stress, and there is preliminary evidence that they may foster resilience.

The most commonly used and most researched interventions were developed by Ignacio Jarero and Amame team in Mexico and by Elan Shapiro and Brurit Laub in Israel. These include Jarero’s EMDR Protocol for Recent Critical Incidents (EMDR-PRECI) and EMDR Integrated Group Treatment Protocol (EMDR-IGTP) and Shapiro and Laub’s Recent Traumatic Episode Protocol (R-TEP) and Group Traumatic Episode Protocol (G-TEP). Trainings for the use of these procedures are being provided at this conference.

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