Oh EMDR! Do you mean the tapping therapy?
This is often the first question I am asked about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). The answer is, no, it is not 'the tapping therapy'. The real 'tapping therapy' is EFT – emotional freedom technique. Although, incidentally, sometimes forms of tapping are used in EMDR.
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a relatively new therapy established within the last 20 years. It is an extremely effective treatment for people – children as well as adults – who have had traumatic experiences. It is also helpful for a variety of emotional and behavioural problems in adults and children.
An essential part of EMDR treatment is the use of 'bilateral stimulation' of the brain. This enables the left and right sides of the brain to better communicate with each other.
This is carried out while a snapshot of a troubling incident is recalled by the client, along with the negative thought and body sensation which best goes with the snapshot. The client is asked to "just notice" whatever happens during this left-right stimulation.
The bilateral stimulation can be achieved by using a variety of methods: eye movements (which give the therapy its name) where the client is asked to look at either the therapist’s finger or at a light on a light bar, and follow it back and forth with their eyes.
Alternatively, hand taps, hand-held buzzers, or headphones with left-right sounds can be used. After a few seconds, the eye movements or other right-left stimulation are stopped and the client is asked to tell the therapist what was noticed.
EMDR is an approach that uses this alternating left-right stimulation of the brain to help ‘unblock’ the brain’s processing so that traumatic memories can become ‘ordinary’ memories. While the exact process of how this works within the brain is not understood, continued neuro-scientific research is now showing how neural connections do change during this type of therapy.
Brain scans also show that different areas of the brain "light up" before and after therapy, indicating that the site where the memory is held in the brain before and after therapy also changes.
These are exciting times in neuro-scientific research where successes that were previously intuitively understood by therapists are now being backed up by scientific proof.
So, while tapping is sometimes used in EMDR, EMDR is not the 'tapping therapy'.
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