What is EMDR? In answer to this question I have provided a brief description along with some resources to gather additional information in order to help make a decision if EMDR is right for you. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed in 1991 and is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress. Various forms of trauma and stress can range from combat, rape, anxiety, health issues, and phobias.
So what will it look like in real life application for me? EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies. (EMDR Institute, Inc. 2015)
EMDR works on the premise that the mind has a tendency to move towards health and will be able to achieve that if the obstacles that have prevented a healthy sensory experience are addressed. When negative outcomes from trauma have occurred the mind has been unable to integrate these experiences in a healthy way and the memories become frozen and are thus unprocessed in the mind, which make them susceptible to becoming “triggered” which can take the form of flashbacks or unexplained panic attacks. An EMDR approach interweaves Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness into this work. For additional information and questions please check into the EMDR website at http://www.emdr.com/