EMDR was discovered and developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987. She noticed that disturbing thoughts changed with spontaneous eye movements to less disturbing thoughts leading to adaptive resolution (i.e. the negative charge was greatly reduced).
When traumatic events are remembered, a person activates declarative (explicit) memory but also implicit (autonomic) memory networks so that even if a client has full recall of the event and can talk about what happened, implicit memories remain un-integrated and unaltered by the course of time.
These implicit memories are activated by trauma-related triggers (reminders) and the resulting feelings and somatic sensations (e.g.. elevated heart rate, numbing, etc.) are misinterpreted by the client so that he/she feels they are still in danger.
During the session, we would identify the traumatic event. We would find the snapshot in this event that was the most traumatic and the emotions and negative cognition (thought, core belief) connected to this moment in the past. Together we come up with a positive cognition that you want to belief and replace the negative cognition.
Using eye movement (likely related to the rapid eye movement we have during sleep cycles) we reprocess the memory, emotions and negative cognition. The therapist will sit closer than in a conventional therapy session and will move her hand sideways horizontally at a comfortable distance from the client so that their eyes can follow this movement. Gentle tapping can also be used depending with what the client feels most comfortable.
A successful reprocessing session(s) changes a disturbing memory into one that is no longer emotionally distressing and is now perceived by the individual to have taken its appropriate place in the historical past. The person remembers rather than re-experiences.
Depending on the trauma in the client’s life, if it was once off or ongoing traumatic events, 5-20 sessions may be needed to achieve adaptive resolution.