What is Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?

Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), is a new and non-traditional form of psychotherapy that has been growing in popularity over recent years. The focus is on enabling people to heal from the symptoms of emotional distress that occur after disturbing life experiences, and repeated studies show that EMDR therapy can help to heal emotional pain by streamlining the system for healing.

Commonly, EMDR is effective at dealing with issues of post-traumatic stress disorder, and similar anxiety-provoking conditions that occur after a traumatic event. Although this solution appears to approach psychological problems in a somewhat unusual way – ignoring medications and talking therapies – it can be useful for many people.

Methods Used in EMDR

Unlike psychotherapy and counseling, EDMR does not use talking strategies for healing, but instead focuses on the rhythmic eye movements that we all experience each day, finding ways to use those movements to dampen the power of emotionally-charged memories.

A treatment session for EMDR can last for up to ninety minutes, during which time a therapist will move his or her fingers back and forth in front of your face, asking you to follow the motions with your eyes. At the same time, your therapist may ask you to recall a disturbing event, recalling the emotions and bodily sensations that go alongside it.

Gradually, your EMDR therapist will push you to shift your thoughts to more pleasant ones, asking you to rate your level of distress before and after each session with the hope that your uncomfortable memories will eventually become less disabling. Though most research into EMDR has examined it’s potential in PTSD sufferers, it can be used to treat other psychological problems too, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction

The Goals and Outcomes of EMDR

The foundations of EMDR indicate that the mind is capable of healing from psychological trauma in a manner that’s similar to the body recovering from physical trauma. For instance, when you cut yourself, your body closes and cleans the wound. If something continues to irritate the wound, then it may fester, scar, or cause additional pain. However, if you can remove the irritation, then healing resumes.

EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events can take place with mental processes. The brain’s system for processing information naturally works to push towards mental health, and if the system is imbalanced by the impact of disturbing events, healing cannot continue. EDMR therapy attempts to remove the blocks towards mental health, using eight-phase treatments.

During an EMDR treatment, eye movement stimulation is used, once a clinician has determined which memory to target first. Additionally, the idea is to focus on creating natural movements with the eyes by asking the patient to follow the movement of a hand or finger, while recalling memories. The system replicates REM sleep, a time in which the mind can better process difficult thoughts and feelings.

In successful cases of EMDR therapy, the meanings and feelings associated with painful events can be reduced on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim might shift their feelings of disgust and horror to a reminder that they are a strong survivor. Unlike talk therapy, the insights that clients gain from EMDR therapy come from their own emotional and intellectual processes, rather than the interpretation of a clinician.

Ideally, each patient will complete their EMDR therapy experience feeling empowered by the experienced that once disabled them.

Should You Consider EMDR Treatment?

Though EMDR therapy is still a relatively new therapeutic technique, it’s experiencing significant success across the globe as a natural process for managing thoughts and emotions. During EMDR, the therapist and client become partners on a journey to removing traumatic energy, working to transcend the pain of past experiences so that the client can return to their natural state of being. The best way to determine if EMDR therapy is right for you, may be to schedule a consultation with a clinician. During this consultation, you will be able to discuss the unique nature of your circumstances, and discover more about what the therapy solution could do for you.