Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), is an experiential approach to therapy that involves the mind and body, addressing the past, present and future aspects of a traumatic or distressing memory that doesn't get processed the way that normal or non-distressing memories do. The goal of EMDR is to process these distressing memories, reducing their lingering influence and emotions, thereby allowing clients to develop more adaptive coping behaviors and beliefs.
So, how does EMDR work? Metaphorically, when there is an upsetting event, the two halves of the brain stop talking to each other. It is thought that the corpus callosum, the band of nerve fibers that connect the two hemispheres, is like a phone line that gets disconnected. When the disconnect happens, the left brain which offers wisdom and perspective (like a counselor or a parent), can't get through to the right brain (the emotional, creative, child-like brain). The trauma is then stored in an even more colorful, emotional, "bells and whistles" folder than other memories are. This folder becomes accessible with the slightest provocation due to similar (but often very different) stimuli. Without the input of the left brain, the bells and whistles are difficult to stop (you will hear people say "I know this shouldn't STILL be upsetting to me, but I just can't control my reaction.")
EMDR connects and stimulates activity between the two brains which helps the right brain take the left brain's advice. When this happens it provides a disconnect or dimming of the memory and there is a natural healing that ensues. Interestingly, the body might still have tension due to it's own memory of the trauma, so the process of EMDR is continued until this subsides. At that point, the mind offers up more positive and self-affirming beliefs and thoughts, maybe not about the event but about the ability of the individual to "handle it and heal from it." With EMDR, you will still have a memory but it won't have the intensity and impact that is troubling or limiting. And, most often a sense of peace and or confidence replaces the negative emotional state.
What is EEmotional freedom technique (or tapping) gets similar results of neutralizing negative memories or current negative beliefs, even phobias and addictions, but by a different method.
EFT or tapping has many contributors. One of the first included George Goodheart, a chiropractor. He combined the fields of chiropractic, physical therapy, and muscle testing. John Diamond, M.D., a psychiatrist, identified himself as the first mental health professional to study applied kinesiology with Goodheart. In his book, he describes a connection between specific emotions and acupuncture meridians. Roger Callahan, a psychologist began to use acupuncture meridians with kinesiology to treat phobias. He modified the process and called it Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Patricia Carrington Ph.D. and Gary Craig are also two key innovators. Gary Craig's simplified version of TAT (tapas acupressure technique) is the leader of meridian tapping and coined his method, EFT.
Gary's foundational belief is that every trauma or negative emotion is due to a negative disruption in the energy system. It doesn't matter whether the trauma originated emotionally or physically. The method is to use the fingertips to gently tap acupuncture points on the face, hands and body, which then moves the energy that is "disrupted" or stuck around that event, and the brain is then free to "see things differently."
What's also happening is a chemical and physiological event underneath ---a cocktail of neurotransmitters is emitted from the brain that tend to neutralize cortisol, the stress hormone. This cocktail relaxes the body while pairing a negative memory or behavior pattern, and the disruption in the energy system is set right again. It can, during some memories, be likened to disconnecting a wire in the brain that is "over-firing". A sense of peace sets in as the event or habit and surrounding emotions are neutralized. When the body is relaxed, the mind can then buy into the new belief system or let go of the trauma.
EFT also works with pain and with sports performance.
For more information on how EFT works in the physical body, read "the Genie in Your Genes", by Dawson Church, Ph.D.
For further reading about the mind/body connection refer to Candice Pert, M.D. (neuroscientist and pharmacologist), Molecules of Emotion, and Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.(cell biologist), The Biology of Belief. Both talk about cellular memory and the chemical reactions in our bodies that we used to believe were set genetically and therefore, unchangeable. These scientists and hosts of others, including quantum physicists now believe we can change emotional, biological/physical patterns deep at the genetic level. This contradicts what scientists have always thought but isn't that the way with science? The new is always criticized and disbelieved until the proof is just too difficult to disprove.