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An Introduction to EMDR: Your Body is Your Ally, Your Brain is Your Buddy


By Christina Johnson and Dorie Beach

Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.- Dr. Peter Levine


EMDR was discovered by serendipity. One day in the late 1980s, Francine Shapiro PhD was taking a walk. She was aware of being anxious and was surprised to find that her anxiety was diminished after her walk. She realized she had been looking from side to side during her walk and she began experimenting with eye movements. She and her colleagues then wrote the first research papers about transforming “stuck memory” into a learning experience. Now EMDR has been so well researched that it is recommended as an effective treatment for trauma in the Practice Guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association, and those of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

How does it work?

EMDR is an acronym for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.” No one is entirely sure how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain, however when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily.

Trauma can be a moment that seems frozen in time and remembering that moment may feel as bad as going through it the first time. Images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. The long-lasting effect is that a person may retain a negative way he sees the world, and the way he relates to others because of the trauma.

Somatic psychotherapy recognizes that our bodies are always relaying information about our state of being. Even if our minds do not completely remember past trauma, our muscle and cell memories reliably hold the information.

What distinguishes EMDR from other therapies is that after a client has formulated her/his problem, bilateral stimulation is used, either with eye movement or gentle tapping on the hands or the knees. This stimulation sends a message to the brain, which processes the information using the intelligence of the body to bring about awareness in the client in a way that conventional talk therapy might take months to uncover.

EMDR can be used with many mental, emotional, and physical disorders.

It facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences, bringing them to an adaptive conclusion. Unlike conventional talk therapy, the insights gained in EMDR therapy result from the client’s accelerated intellectual and emotional processes instead of from clinical interpretation. The net effect is that EMDR leaves clients feeling empowered by the very experiences that once traumatized them.

A talk about EMDR will be given by psychotherapists Christina Johnson and Dorie Beach at

4pm at Casa Europa Feb 7. Donations accepted.




By psychotherapists Christina Johnson and Dorie Beach

Wed, Feb 7, 4pm

Casa Europa

San Francisco 23

Donation accepted




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