A Celebration of the Work of Dr. Francine Shapiro

 Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing  “EMDR”

By: Dr. Janice Stuart

While I’ve heard trauma defined in many different ways, here’s a definition I particularly like:

“Trauma = any threat that you are not prepared to handle.”

Think about that – any threat that you’re not prepared to handle can be traumatizing.

Does this mean that you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if you simply experience a threat that you’re not ready to deal with? No…you can struggle with trauma, and suffer a lot of emotional pain, even if you don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

One of the biggest struggles with overcoming trauma is that is has very little to do with how you think. However, it does have a lot to do with your body interpreting the world as a dangerous place. It is not something you can just talk yourself out of. And sadly, not even time itself can heal the wounds of trauma.

Trauma symptoms can leave you feeling unsafe even in your own body.  (Read more feeling emotionally safe in your body at Fortunately, very effective treatment is readily available.

You see, as an EMDR psychologist I often help clients find relief for their trauma symptoms.

A bit of background though…

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing. This technique was developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro. It’s a procedure used to reduce the pain of old traumatic experiences that intrude on your daily life. Since its initial development , EMDR has evolved through the efforts of psychologists, therapists and researchers from around the world.

There are two types of trauma: big “T” trauma, and little “t” trauma. Big “T” traumas are the result of horrific events: war, sexual assault, loss of a child. Little “t” traumas are smaller negative experiences, such as negative indoctrination or interpersonal experiences that impinge on self-worth, maturity, or achievement. I personally use EMDR  to help relieve the pain associated with either type of trauma.

An EMDR therapist must take a thorough history to determine if and how EMDR can be used as an integral part of an overall treatment plan. EMDR is one of the most researched treatments for PTSD, with many clinical studies showing its effects to be effective and long-lasting.

EMDR has also been used successfully to treat other problems including: anxiety, phobias, sexual abuse, panic attacks, etc. I personally like to use it because it apparently jump starts the brain’s natural healing ability, which causes traumatic memories fade significantly.