Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach to psychotherapy that has been practiced around the world for the past 25 years.
It integrates many of the successful elements of a range of therapeutic approaches, yet there are aspects of EMDR that are unique. In particular, the therapist leads a patient in a series of lateral eye movements while the patient simultaneously focuses on various aspects of a disturbing memory. The left – right eye movements in EMDR therapy are a form of “bilateral stimulation”. Other forms of bilateral stimulation used by EMDR therapists include alternating bilateral sound using headphones and alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of the patient’s hands.
EMDR therapy is applicable for a wide range of psychological problems that result from overwhelming life experiences. During the processing of difficult memories, a person who, for example, is fearful of driving due to a terrible car accident in the past may end the session feeling safe to drive again.
More than a set of “techniques”, the EMDR approach provides a model for understanding human potential, including how positive experiences support adaptive living, or psychological health, and how upsetting experiences can sometimes lead to psychological problems that interfere with a person’s ability to meet life challenges. The EMDR protocol guides clinicians in careful assessment and preparation work, particularly for persons with histories of multiple traumas.
Most people think that therapy involves only talking about problems. However, one aspect of EMDR is that you do not have to talk in detail about a trauma for it to be digested by your own information processing system. In other words rather than try to talk through the problem, the processing occurs on a psychological level and allows new associations, insights, and emotions to emerge spontaneously.
EMDR is not suitable for all patients and there may be times when EMDR is not recommended (for example if you have very little stability in your life or when you are in the middle of a crisis).
EMDR Therapy Can Help With
- Sexual assault
- Sudden bereavement
- Other major trauma