EMDR theory and trauma: The strange, the familiar, and the forgotten


There are polarizing beliefs when it comes to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. On one end, it is viewed as a+ cure-all treatment for mental health symptoms. On the other, critics see it as a treatment akin to modern-day snake oil. The protocol for EMDR therapy is comprehensive and detailed. Put simply, the idea is to transform disturbing input—process and decondition it—into an adaptive resolution and a psychologically healthy integration. The model is past-focused, meaning one is going back in time to recall events as opposed to addressing current life stressors (not that the two are mutually exclusive). This includes redefining the event, finding meaning in it, and alleviating self-blame while integrating new skills (Shapiro, 2001). The modality focuses on the core cognitions or self-referential beliefs individuals associate with the disturbing events. These often fall into domains related to personal responsibility, safety, and power or control. “Trauma in each of these domains is reflected by the client’s distorted self-referencing beliefs linked to the effects of unresolved memories” (Nickerson, 2017). Find a Therapist Advanced Search EMDR is an evidence-based therapy primarily used to treat posttraumatic stress (PTSD), but as it gains momentum in mental health circles, indications for its use are ever-expanding. The question for me is less about EMDR efficacy or benefit. The concern is the theory behind it and my general curiosity regarding its unique properties. There are aspects of the treatment that are altogether strange. Likewise, it contains components that are familiar to popular understanding of memory and a few things that tend to go overlooked or are forgotten.






Andrew Archer

Original Work Citation

Archer, A. (2017, June 8). EMDR theory and trauma: The strange, the familiar, and the forgotten. GoodTherapy.org. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/emdr-theory-trauma-strange-familiar-forgotten-0608174 on 6/26/2018




“EMDR theory and trauma: The strange, the familiar, and the forgotten,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 26, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/25385.

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