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What is EMDR? How does it work?

EMDR, also known as Bilateral Stimulation (BLS), has been shown to be one of the most effective treatment for helping clients to handle distressing life events or trauma.
It can be used
with adults, and it is easily modified to work with children.

Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) normally involves the use of "pulsers", which the client holds in his or her palms. The pulsers vibrate, and alternate between the right and the left. The client sets the levels for both the level of vibration and the speed so that it is comfortable and relaxing. Clients usually find the feeling of the vibration to be calming.

While the client receives BLS, the life-distressing event is processed as if in a normal therapy session. There is a protocol to be followed each time, so that the client's cognitive memory, affective memory and sensory memory are all involved the the EMDR session.

EMDR appears to help the client more rapidly process disturbing information so that it is longer “frozen” in the brain. This also helps to process information into long-term memory so that the life-distressing event is less of a trigger for strong emotions such as anxiety and fear. Clients have control over the session in terms of stopping the BLS at any time, or stopping the entire session at any time. Should that happen, the session would end with a relaxation exercise and the client could determine if they wanted to pursue EMDR in the next session. 

For many people, EMDR results in a kind of processing of information that provides them with better integration and perspective. For some, this means sharper memory of the event(s), for others, it may mean that the event feels further away emotionally.

Dr. Shaw is a Certified EMDR Therapist. She received her Basic training from Barb Maiberger MA, LPC. Dr. Shaw received Advanced training in EMDR with children with internationally known therapists Dr. Robert Tinker and Dr. Sandra Wilson. She also had training in Early Trauma Protocol (trauma in early childhood) with Katie O'Shea, MS LCPC. Dr. Shaw also has had Advanced EMDR training in Attachment Focused EMDR (healing clients with histories of child abuse) with Dr. Laurel Parnell, and Somatic Interventions and EMDR with Barb Maiberger and Dr. Arielle Schwartz. She has also had advanced trainings on working with adults with Complex PTSD, including a two-day training in Dissociative Disorders with Joanne Twombly LICSW, and a two-day training with Jim Knipe PhD called "EMDR Toolbox: Methods for Treating Complex PTSD."