EMDR, RITMO® and post-traumatic stress disorder
Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., an American psychologist, discovered the benefits of EMDR during a walk in a park, during which she gazed across the landscape. She noticed that it alleviated her anxieties. She then began clinical trials first on a group of volunteers in 1987, then on Vietnam veterans, as a psychologist at Mental Research in Palo Alto, before publishing the results in 1989, formalizing this EMDR method.
EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a means of stimulating a complex neuropsychological mechanism present in all of us, which allows us to reprocess undigested traumatic experiences at the origin of various symptoms, sometimes very debilitating.
When the psyche is overwhelmed by a traumatic shock, our brain fails to process - or digest - shocking information as it usually does and it gets stuck in the event without our being aware of it. It is these undigested traumatic experiences that are the grounds for pathology, causing post-traumatic stress disorder and other associated pathologies.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is found in victims of traumatic events occurring in childhood or in adulthood: physical, psychological and sexual assaults and abuse, accidents, bereavement, attacks, natural disasters.
The events causing PTSD can also be difficult life events, which were not identified at the time as potentially traumatic because they seem to have been overcome, but which have left emotional wounds that may have caused psychological disturbances or inappropriate or excessive behavior in daily life. This may involve difficult family childhood experiences, seperations, marital difficulties, illnesses, operations, professional difficulties, etc.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
Mostly, the disturbances are expressed in the form of irritability, anxieties, nightmares, reviviscences and ruminations about the traumatic experience, tendency to isolation, depression, agitated or even violent behavior, physical pain, somatization, regression and/or repetition of childhood violence, ...
These disturbances can lead to depression, addictions, eating disorders, panic attacks, phobias, ...
Bilateral sensory stimulation
EMDR therapy uses bilateral alternating sensory stimulation (right-left) which is practiced by eye movements -the patient follows the therapist's fingers which pass from right to left in front of his eyes- but also by auditory or tactile stimuli (the therapist alternately taps the patient's knees or the back of his hands).
The rhythmic movement of the eyes is the same as that which occurs spontaneously when dreaming during the so-called Rapid Eye Movement phase.
Decrease the emotional load associated with memory
This stimulation helps to restructure traumatic information in the cortex and no longer in the limbic brain, which is linked to emotions. Indeed, it is because the memory could not be processed by the cortex and it has overinvested the emotional brain that the symptoms appear and persist. Recoding induced by eye movements reduces the emotional load associated with memory.
Normally this process is natural and spontaneous, which is why some trauma have little impact. But when the trauma is too severe, or the individual is in a period of vulnerability, this process fails and gives way to symptoms. This is when EMDR provides an interesting solution.
A therapist may also use the technique of RITMO®, Reprocessing of Traumatic Information by Eye Movements, a brief therapy tool inspired by EMDR and hypnosis.
Sources: EMDR France, Institut Français d'EMDR, , www.emdr.com, Lili Ruggieri, Psychopratician and Creator of the RITMO® method.