EMDR Therapy History

EMDR, developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s after she discovered that bilateral eye movements could reduce the intensity of traumatic memories, has evolved into a widely accepted and evidence-based psychotherapy for treating PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.

Background of EMDR

The initial EMDR study took place in 1989. Since that study, EMDR has developed into a complete and holistic therapy, producing positive therapeutic results with:

  • People who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as depressive and anxiety-based disorders.
  • People who have suffered loss (death, divorce and loss of home, etc.) or childhood abuse or neglect.
  • People who have witnessed or have been the victim of a natural disaster (tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes, etc.)
  • People who are struggling with addiction.

According to scientific research, EMDR is the quickest and most effective method for healing PTSD.

Understanding Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

During EMDR therapy, your eyes may be stimulated repeatedly, or you may receive tactile stimulation (touch) or hear sounds repeatedly. The goal is to continually activate opposite sides of your brain. These repeated stimulations help release emotional experiences that became trapped in your nervous system at the time the traumatic event occurred. This blockage negatively affects your neurophysiological system, where the connection between your mind and body begins. Releasing these emotional experiences eliminates the blockages and assists your neurophysiological system in reconnecting itself.

Timeline of EMDR History

The history of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy has origins in the late 1980s.

Inception by Francine Shapiro

1987: Francine Shapiro, a psychologist, made a serendipitous discovery while walking in a park. She noticed that her own distressing thoughts diminished when her eyes moved rapidly from side to side.

1989: Shapiro conducted a controlled study to test her observations, which resulted in published articles in the Journal of Traumatic Stress and in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. The study showed that eye movements could reduce the intensity of traumatic memories, leading her to develop what she initially called Eye Movement Desensitization (EMD).

Early Development

Following her initial discovery, Shapiro refined her technique and expanded it beyond just eye movements to include other forms of bilateral stimulation (like hand taps and auditory tones).

She also developed a structured eight-phase approach to the therapy, which added a reprocessing component to the original desensitization technique. This led to the name being changed to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Formalization and Training

Throughout the early 1990s, Shapiro continued to refine EMDR and began training therapists in this new method.
In 1995, she published her book, "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures," which became a key text for the therapy.

Scientific Validation

In the 1990s and 2000s, numerous studies were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of EMDR. Many of these studies demonstrated significant benefits for individuals with PTSD and other trauma-related disorders.

EMDR gained recognition from major health organizations, including the American Psychological Association (APA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as an effective treatment for trauma

Evolution and Expansion

EMDR has continued to evolve, with ongoing research exploring its mechanisms and expanding its application to other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and phobias.

Today, EMDR is practiced worldwide and is considered a mainstream, evidence-based psychotherapy.

Professional Organizations and Resources

The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) was established in 1995 to provide standards, promote research, and offer training and resources for therapists.

EMDRIA and other organizations have contributed to the global dissemination and standardization of EMDR practices.

Overall, the history of EMDR is marked by a combination of empirical research, clinical practice, and ongoing refinement, leading to its current status as a widely accepted and effective therapeutic approach for trauma and other psychological conditions.

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