EMDR of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a method of treating psychological trauma-either large T trauma like war, rape, child abuse, natural disasters, etc. or small t traumas such as humiliation, bullying, abandonment, unexpected loss, and more. EMDR is a method of trauma treatment Doctor Francine Shapiro developed. She made the discovery of the underlying principles of EMDR when she was taking a walk in California in 1987 when she discovered disturbing thoughts dissipated when she stopped them or changed them. The other thing she discovered was that when disturbing thoughts entered her mind her eyes moved in a specific pattern or an upward diagonal. However when this pattern is reconfigured through initially people i.e. friends, colleague, etc. following her fingers their distress diminished.

She then set up her first controlled study of EMDR in 1987 with Vietnam war veterans with impressive results. Shortly thereafter EMDR became the primary method of trauma treatment in the world with 60,000 practitioners in eighty countries. One of the reasons for this, in addition to the efficacy of the treatment a large body of empirical evidence, was generated simultaneously.

The basic components of EMDR treatment are visualizing the trauma event and the image representing the most upsetting part of the traumatic event; the negative cognitions; the positive cognitions; the emotions; the level of disturbance or SUDS (the Selective Units of Disturbance Scale) developed by Joseph Wolpe, psychologist and physical sensations.

My first experience with EMDR came in the late 1990’s. I heard good things about EMDR while simultaneously there was a great deal of skepticism about EMDR. However, in my treatment of clients there were several clients who were traumatized and all I accomplished with cognitive behavioral therapy was teach them about cognitive distortions which led to minimal change. It was as if they were frozen in time. I decided as I learned more about EMDR that it could be the key to overcoming my frustrations with traumatized clients.

Early on I recall I was taught EMDR could unleash a flood of emotions in the process of EMDR’s helping people to heal thus I was instructed in several precautions to minimize this eventuality.

And then I went on to practice EMDR independently after receiving my level two certification in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For about 6-8 years I had a great many successes including some of my “stuck” clients whom I mentioned earlier made minimal progress with cognitive behavioral therapy. I thought nothing could help trauma victims better than EMDR.

Even though I was successful treating clients with EMDR I thought EMDR would help me and it didn’t. The issues I wanted help with were a social phobia and an obsessive compulsive disorder. There was minimal success with either. Estimated number of EMDR sessions – 50. This greatly frustrated me and confused me.

In 2008 I discovered CBSD and as a client – in 11 sessions my social phobia of years was gone. (The great joy of my life today is almost everyone talks to me) – I learned “something there is that doesn’t love a wall” – Robert Frost, Mending Wall. Creativity after years also returned, and some progress was made with my obsessive compulsive disorder.

Areas where CBSD and EMDR diverge are —

1. CMSD does not feel releasing feelings is not nearly as important as reconfiguring unhealthy thoughts. To minimize any emotional upset or abreaction acupressure is used.

2. Because the strategy in point one is taken some clients who would be ruled out for EMDR because they are too fragile emotionally could be considered for CBSD.

3. Far fewer sessions are needed for multiple trauma victims-either little t traumas or big T traumas like the Case of Betsey in the testimonial section of this website.

4. Visual images of the trauma are not the only material that can be worked on. There are also metaphors, dreams, and more that can also be used.

There are the critical differences. Please see cognitive behavioral sensory desensitization on this website if more information on CBSD is wanted.