What Is It?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a specialized therapy developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. This therapy is used to overcome the effects of traumatic or upsetting experiences.
How Does It Work?
It is theorized that the therapy works by using bilateral stimulation of eye movements, hand taps, sounds from ear-to-ear or alternating movements by the client. It appears that while the client recalls a disturbing event, that the bilateral stimulation will relieve the anxiety associated with the event by having the client examine the original event in a more detached manner. It has been compared to watching a movie of what happened to them. After EMDR processing, clients generally report a decrease in emotional distress regarding the memory of the event, or that they have gained insights about themselves in regard to the traumatic event.
EMDR can be used to treat individuals who have experienced the following: traumatic accidents, depression, illness, sexual abuse, physical abuse, witnessed some type of trauma, complicated grief, relationship problems, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Clients of all ages, who have been carefully screened for readiness, can benefit from this therapy. It is most effective with single incident trauma but is widely used in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder such as that of sexual assault survivors, combat veterans, and survivors of natural disasters. It is also used to help individuals deal with events that happen in their everyday lives that have caused them to have difficulty in processing negative beliefs about themselves. These might include being bullied at school, negative experiences with public speaking, or low self-esteem due to other childhood experiences.
How Long Does It Take?
A benefit of this therapy is the speed at which problems can be resolved as clients have reported results after only one session. Others receive success through a series of three to five sessions by reporting a decrease in flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, negative beliefs about self, or elimination of disturbing dreams.
EMDR is a specialized model of treatment that needs to be conducted by a licensed mental health provider who has specific training in the protocols for this therapy approach.