EMDR was developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s when she realized rapid eye movements alleviated her psychological distress. Even with decades of case studies perfecting and demonstrating the technique, EMDR struggled to be legitimized beyond a “pseudoscience,” mostly given that it did advisable that you be true. However, subsequent studies highlight several biases within the research debunking EMDR, and there is evidence that efficacy may be hindered by lack of proper training and skepticism of clinicians facilitating the session. Despite criticism, the efficacy of EMDR happens to be demonstrated by over 30 randomized clinical studies with PTSD remission rates which range from 77 to 100 percent, with regards to the type of trauma and number of sessions.
Traumatic experiences map towards the brain, training the amygdala and limbic system to react to memories as if these were immediate threats. Which means, once triggered, traumatized people lose usage of reason. This is the underlying dynamic of PTSD, which can be how post-traumatic stress disorder develops. For an individual with PTSD, it does not matter if they rationally realize that they are not being attacked because their amygdala is a primary executive function. They remain under constant neurological fire.
EMDR addresses psychological distress by dealing with the neurological sources of confusion, just how physical therapy treats sources of physical pain. More specifically, the technique uses bilateral stimulation, often within the form of rapid eye movements from straight to the left, to correct the brain’s processing system and quell the psychological effects of the trauma.
Picturing an unpleasant memory while engaging with bilateral stimulation happens to be found to reduce psychological arousal and anxiety enough that traumatized people can quickly recover access to coping mechanisms unavailable in their mind when in fight or flight mode. Therapists are not able to delete trauma. However, they can turn down the intensity of memories, so they are more manageable. Scientists suspect it is so successful given that it essentially combines exposure therapy with rapid eye movements associated with sleep. During REM sleep, mental performance eliminates unnecessary information, in a procedure known as reverse-learning, that might also assist in dampening intrusive thoughts.
“This analytical strategy can get rid of the stigma of weakness or hypersensitivity which is commonly related to psychotherapy,” psychotherapist Jessica Jefferson explains.