Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a research-based technique for assisting the brain in processing “big” and “small” traumas in our lives. It was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro and has been used all over the world. Reliable sources of information about the technique include the EMDR Institute website, the EMDRIA website (International EMDR Association), and the book “Getting Past Your Past” by Francine Shapiro.

Dr. Ostoja has been trained in EMDR since 2015, through Basic training taught by Janet Wright, LCSW, a wonderful and knowledgeable Regional EMDR Institute Instructor. rigorous training program offered by the EMDR Institute. This level of training, referred to as Basic Training (traditionally EMDR I and EMDR II), requires at least 40 hours of in class instruction (in addition to readings) and 20 hours of supervision (where additional hours of clinical work are discussed). Clinicians certified through this program experience the technique themselves and perform the technique on other trainees.

Though most EMDR clinicians practice with this Basic level of training, Dr. Ostoja has been so impressed by the effectiveness of EMDR, that she is is currently enrolled in an additional monthly certification course taught by Shannon Yockey, LCSW, Andrea Holts, EMFT, and Janet Wright, LCSW.

Originally, EMDR was used with clients who suffered from identifiable traumas, such as war, natural disasters, abuse, loss of loved ones, or work related stress (e.g., first responders, such as policemen, firefighters, and EMTs). EMDR was researched both by its proponents and critics, and has been found to produce more rapid resolution of trauma than traditional therapeutic techniques. It is now a recommended treatment for any trauma-related symptoms, as long as the client meets eligibility criteria, and the clinician is well trained.

With time, it became apparent that most people suffer from what Francine Shapiro has described as “small t” traumas, or less cataclysmic, yet upsetting events in our ordinary lives. People’s sense of self and self-esteem can be adversely affected by a difficult relationship with a teacher, a move, loss of a friend or a relationship, peer rejection, death of a more distant family member or friend (many of those losses are actually big “T’ traumas), or a job loss. Although we are not certain as of now, how exactly EMDR works, it is thought to tap into the brain’s already existing re-processing mechanism, which operates during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) dream state. Our brains are amazingly adept at processing small traumas, but sometimes they get stuck, and the EMDR technique jump starts it again, for specific events. You do not have to have extensive memories of difficult experiences. A client comes in and identifies current concerns, and a clinician like myself uses specific questions to access the neural networks that appear to be stuck. With a non-intrusive and respectful approach, which is always under the control of the client, the brain reprocesses its own material in a way that is healthy for that brain. The clinician is there to assist and support the client through possible rough spots. The clinician does not need to know every detail of the memory in order for EMDR to work.

EMDR is a structured approach that involves strengthening each client’s internal resources first. The EMDR approach goes far beyond the actual eye movements (or taps, tones, or buzzers). It is a comprehensive approach, which helps clients learn relaxation and containment strategies to enhance emotional self-regulation. EMDR is also compatible with cognitive-behavioral and other therapeutic approaches, which can be used as needed.

Please feel free to ask Dr. Ostoja about this exciting approach to treatment!