EMDR: Its History and Development


EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 and is a psychotherapy technique that has been shown to be effective for reducing the symptoms of PTSD. It is also used as an adjunctive treatment for other diagnoses, including anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), chronic pain or health conditions. The EMDR Institute provides information about EMDR therapy with links to additional resources. 

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a serious condition that can develop after someone has been through or witnessed a life-threatening event such as combat, natural disaster, rape, or other causing intense fear and helplessness. Symptoms may include intrusive memories of the event; recurring upsetting dreams relating to the event; intense feelings of sympathetic nervous system arousal (anxiety, panic); and an avoidance of any discussion or thoughts about what you suffered.

History of EMDR

In 1987, while walking in the park one day, psychologist Francine Shapiro coincidentally moved her eyes rhythmically to the left and right, and at that moment realized that the disturbing thoughts and feelings about certain negative memories in her mind had diminished. This observation led her to think that eye movements might have a desensitizing effect, and she began to do research on this. As a result of his research and experiments, she noticed that eye movement has a relaxing effect on others. 

More: What is EMDR Therapy ?

Francine Shapiro has named her method EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) since 1991. Now, other types of bilateral stimulation methods can be used instead of eye movements.

There are different options such as giving a sound to both ears through a headset or a tactile stimulation rhythmically with a vibrator. That’s why Shapiro later wrote in his book: “If I had my current mind, I would just call this method Reprocessing Therapy.”

Shapiro, who saw that EMDR therapy was effective in many people in a short time and made a lot of research on this subject, established the EMDR Institute in 1990 to teach this method to other colleagues. With the widespread use of the method, especially in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the popularity of the method has gradually increased as it provides faster improvements compared to many other methods.

Since traumas can be handled quickly with EMDR, it is thought that it can be a suitable method for people who have been exposed to large-scale disasters and traumatic events, and studies have been initiated in this direction. For this purpose, a unit called EMDR HAP-Humanitarian Aid Program, which carries out voluntary work for trauma victims, was established.

Therapists enrolled in this program within the EMDR Associations. It voluntarily supports people who have been victims of earthquakes, floods and terrorism. In recent years, this therapy helped with not only traumatic experiences but it has been observed that it can be used effectively in many different areas as well such as anxiety problems, depression, anger control problems, and performance enhancement.

Many experienced experts of approaches such as Psychodynamic, Cognitive-Behavioral and Hypnotherapy have started to use method in traumas by specializing in this therapy. Many additional methods and protocols have been developed in EMDR applications; a lot of research has been done and continues to be done.

Founded in 1995, the International EMDR Association has set the training standards of therapists and ensured a similar level of education all over the world.

Last Updated on November 20, 2021 by Patric Johnson

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He is studying psychology in Canada. Lucas also volunteers helping elderly people in nursing homes. Lucas, who is especially interested in hypnotherapy, continues his education and research in this field.

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