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When a child experiences an adverse childhood event (ACE), what happens? 

As a result of shock, emotional, sensory, cognitive and physiological information is not encoded appropriately in the brain’s limbic system (Cingulate, Hippocampus, Amygdala) which is responsible for processing and storing emotions, as well as the Insulae.
Poorly encoded emotions can be blocked and lead to great suffering characterized by anxiety attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of panic, loss of self-confidence, depression and/or constant state of hypervigilance, which is often linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Such trauma can lead to severe physiological, cognitive, emotional and physical dysfunctions

When is EMDR and how does it work?

In the 1980s, American psychologist Francine Shapiro discovered that sustained bilateral eye movements decreased emotional burden and negative thoughts. From this discovery, she developed the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. A derivative of the protocol, known as “tapping” on collar bones or on the knees has also shown to be effective. This treatment is officially recommended by the World Health Organization since 2013(1).

Concretely what happens?

Photos credits @ Malgorzata Tatarynowicz

Eye movement stimulates the recall of memories stored in the limbic part of the brain. This part of the brain has a limited capacity and when two simultaneous exercises – recalling of a memory AND bilateral eye movements – occur simultaneously in this area of the brain, it creates a neural saturation causing emotions to be vague and less intense. Emotional suffering slowly decreases and progressively disappears while the traumatic memory is re-encoded cognitively through a new set of neural pathways. The newly encoded memory can safely reach the neocortex area of the brain and be stored without causing any further emotional or physiological disturbances from the limbic system. The event becomes transforms at last into a neutral, painless souvenir.

Photos credits @ Malgorzata Tatarynowicz

The EMDR & EMDR-IGTP Protocol

The calming effect of bilateral eye movement on emotional arousal has been known for many ages across various cultures. It is in the 1990s that the healing protocol Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed in the United States. This 8-stage protocol combines bilateral eye movements -or bilateral physical/sensory stimuli- with the cognitive retranscription of memories associated with complex and painful emotions, images and thoughts. Several derivatives of the protocol have been developed and are commonly and efficiently used throughout the world.

 

Since its creation, EMDR has been applied under several modified forms. Nonetheless, the positive and therapeutic effects observed in the application of each derivate format remains incontestable. INNTRA bases its Healing&Care Program on the traditional utilization of EMDR and its group form application, known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing-Integrative Group Treatment Protocol (EMDR-IGTP)*, a scientifically recognized EMDR variable developed by a research team in Mexico in 1997.

References

-WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 (2013)

-Shapiro, F. (2014). The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences. The Permanente Journal, 18(1), 71-77. 

-Tripp, T. (2007). A Short Term Therapy Approach to Processing Trauma: Art Therapy and Bilateral Stimulation. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24:4, 176-183.

-Mollon, F. (2005). EMDR and the Energy Therapies: Psychoanalytic Perspectives. Karnac.

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