What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy crafted to reduce negative thoughts and feelings arising from traumatic experiences. The primary targets of EMDR are not only on the traumatic circumstances themselves but also the unpleasant symptoms and emotions resulting from the traumatic event.
In 1987, psychologist Francine Shapiro found – more or less by accident – that the emotional pain induced by certain traumatic thoughts and memories was reduced when sufferers moved their eyes back and forth at a certain rhythm and in a certain way, often to a light or other instrument.
This observation led to more systematic review and study and the eventual development of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a therapy for PTSD, trauma, and other forms of emotional pain.
How does EMDR work?
The main objective of EMDR is to process the traumatic experience and then identify and reduce various negative emotions associated with it. Negative thoughts and feelings ideally are replaced by positive ones as a result of this treatment. EMDR therapy typically takes place in eight stages, which are as follows:
- Patient’s history and treatment planning.
- Establishment of trust and preparation for the treatment.
- Assessment of negative thoughts and finding positive “counter” thoughts.
- Desensitization, involving the eye movement technique: patients focus upon one or more aspects of the traumatic event while watching a moving object, such as a point of light, going back and forth at a certain frequency.
- Reinforcing positive thoughts.
- Ongoing mental and emotional assessment to determine if further reprocessing is necessary or the patient is able to deal with the trauma without experiencing debilitating negative feelings.
- Closure techniques occurring at the end of each EDMR session.
- Re-Evaluation, occurring at the start of each additional EDMR session.
An EDMR session can take about 60 to 90 minutes. The effectiveness of EDMR is generally acknowledged by therapists although work among researchers continues on this question.