You can read about EMDR and its development and use at the official EMDRIA website, here.
I decided to train in EMDR after having gone through treatment to overcome an extremely traumatic event I experienced as a graduate student–a situation where I was interning in a high school and one of the students attempted suicide during my shift, right in front of the counseling office. I am not sure I would have been able to go on and become a counselor without EMDR treatment to heal and resolve the events of that day. With the treatment, I was able to heal and continue on into professional status in my field. I was also able to return to the schools as a volunteer and intern with adolescents for three more years.
Previous to my own training in the method, I often referred Feldenkrais or counseling clients for EMDR sessions in order to “unstick” some event in their lives that they couldn’t seem to move past or get over. Their situations ranged from bad breakups to car accidents to repetitive ways of dealing with difficult emotions. I also referred people struggling with addiction to EMDR treatment to help them heal from trauma and desensitize triggering. In my own practice, I use it to help people heal from childhood abuse, breakups, negative self-talk or self-image and accidents.
EMDR seems to work best within the context of a loving and supportive healing relationship. While it can be provided as a stand-alone treatment, I just think it works better when you know the person you are working with. It’s difficult to tell the story of overwhelming events and it’s easier to do so when you trust the person you’re sitting with. In some ways, the EMDR process overlaps certain aspects of the TARA Approach work and also shamanism, both of which I also practice. Sometimes I employ elements of shamanism in an EMDR session when it seems appropriate.
In an EMDR session you will hold little green “eggs” that buzz in each palm while being asked to focus on aspects of difficult or disturbing events you want to work on, including negative thoughts, images, body sensations, and emotions. The process of holding both the negative or disturbing content and attending to bilateral stimulation causes the “charge” or traumatic load of the original events to lessen. EMDR appears to create something like a waking-REM state that allows your brain to turn a fragmented, painful, stuck event or series of events into a more holistic narrative and story. It turns your history into something you can know as being in the past, instead of always intruding into your present.
Not everyone is suited for EMDR but many people are. It’s been extensively clinically trialed and researched. Generally, in order to engage in EMDR treatment, you need a good support system, enough space in your life to let things change around, and the ability to go through the process itself. I believe that due to the strength and reliability of the EMDR process, it will continue to gain visibility as a preferred treatment to help people heal from their past and become free in their present. If you have questions, please feel free to call or email me.