EMDR, the therapy based on eye movements
EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy stemming from the intuition of Phd. Francine Shapiro, author of the first study demonstrating the efficacy of the approach, also author of the conceptual model underlying this therapy, the Adaptive Information processing (AIP).
EMDR, through eye’s movements, produce a direct effect on the brain by stimulating the innate information processing system.
In humans there is an innate ability to heal from emotional wounds just like the physical ones. There is a neurological equilibrium that allows information processing to spontaneously go towards adaptive resolution.
However during our life there are such traumaticor stressful experiences that can jam the functioning of this system and the information recorded at the time of the event, including images, sounds, emotions and physical sensations remain as blocked in a neurological stasis in its original and disturbing state.
Removed, denied or dissociated, these emotional wounds remain encapsulated in memory networks thaEMDR is an integrative psychotherapy stemming from the intuition of Phd. Francine Shapirot are not integrated with the rest of our experiences and positive learnings, giving birth to clinical pictures of different nature.
Many years ago Janet had speculated that the nature of the traumatic event was such as to prevent its placement in the usual patterns of organization of the experience, believing that the intensity of the emotional reaction interfered with the ability to represent the events in the symbolic register.
Today the knowledge at our disposal has confirmed this early intuition.
But what do we mean when we talk about trauma?
A trauma is an experience that goes beyond the processing capacity of the individual. The DSM V, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, defines it as an experience in which a subject is exposed to a threat to one’s or other’s physical integrity, a threat to survival. Also, the person experiences a trauma when his perception is characterized by horror, or a sense of helplessness.
This definition corresponds to what is called trauma with the capital T in EMDR perspective.
An accident, an aggression or a rape, being exposed to a serious calamity, witnessing the violent death of someone, especially if someone loved, these are all traumatic events.
These are experiences that everyone of us easily agrees to define as traumatic.
But there are also so-called traumas with lowercase t, or relational trauma. Sometimes thinner, seemingly less overwhelming, like the dysfunctional experiences of the first years of life with our parents: humiliation, neglect, rejection, lack of emotional tuning.
These experiences also represent traumas, and since it is very likely that they do not happen only once, but that they form a traumatic chronic environment, they have equally serious effects that traumas with the capital T.
At the base of the EMDR, as anticipated, there is the paradigm of adaptive information processing, AIP.
This assumption therefore, is what differentiates the EMDR from all other forms of psychotherapy.
According to this model, at the basis of the mental problems we find the memory networks containing all of our stored experiences.
The new experiences are elaborated by the information processing system and integrated/connected within the networks of these memories.
Under normal the system conditions is able to use the information to promote learning in a positive and constructive sense of our Self. When negative experiences take place, this prevents the system from going to resolution, or overpowering the individual’s chances of responding, the same mechanisms freeze the information related to the negative experience.
The thoughts, the emotions, the bodily sensations connected to the trauma, remain blocked in a neurobiological stasis, closed within autonomous neural nets unintegrated with the rest of the memories and the experiences owe had, or without the capacity to connect them with more adaptive networks.
Talking about these dysfunctionallly stored experiences, the different aspects of the experience can be reactivated in a completely unintentional way (flashbacks, images, intrusive and automatic thoughts, etc.) and then assume a dysfunctional character. Internal or external stimuli that have a similarity to the original event are able to awaken the encapsulated nets and cause emotional and behavioral reactions, because the person responds as if the past was still present, in the here and now ( escapes, avoidance, high anxiety, threat perception, etc.), or showing symptoms.
When negative experiences have been experienced in the first years of life, they can have a devastating impact and constitute real psychopathology, such as in personality disorders, and lay the groundwork for subsequent re-traumatizations (we thinkfor example to the victims of child abuse, who choose to stay in relationships with abusive partners).
Processing these submerged experiences, through the EMDR, allows the mind to bring back to its natural equilibrium, completing a process to which it is physiologically predisposed, but that had been pathologically interrupted.
EMDR today is one of the most empirically tested therapies, it’s efficacy is also demonstrated by neuroimaging studies, which show changes in the brain function in vivo, while doing EMDR stimulation.
The World Health Organization has indicated this therapy as an election treatment for psychic traumas, and different organizations responsible for the drafting of guidelines for clinical practice have included it among evidence-based psychotherapy.
Attention! Only carefully trained psychotherapists in this practice by authorized associations can use it, guaranteeing to the client the seriousness of the intervention and the use of the treatment protocol according to the Certified Quality standards.
In Europe there are many associations that form EMDR therapists each day and provide the names and contact details of therapists.
You can find my name in the therapists list of the EMDR Italy Association, among the therapists for Italy and abroad and in EMDR Spanish Association too.
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