Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989). Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing Model posits that EMDR facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories to bring these to an adaptive resolution.
During EMDR the client attends to emotionally disturbing material, in brief sequential doses, while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Therapist directed lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus, but a variety of other stimuli including hand-tapping and audio stimulation can be used (Shapiro, 1991). Shapiro (1995) hypothesises that EMDR facilitates the accessing of the traumatic memory network, so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. After successful treatment with EMDR, emotional distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.