Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an emerging therapy used primarily to treat patients with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unlike most psychotherapy treatments, EMDR does not rely on talk therapy, making it a good choice for people who are unable to talk about traumatic memories.
In the thirty years since it was developed, the effectiveness of EMDR has been debated. However, an increasing number of organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association and the US Department of Veteran Affairs, are recognizing its value among patients who have experienced trauma.
People with a history of trauma frequently have difficulty talking about their experiences, resulting in them avoiding therapy. Since the development of EMDR, these patients have access to a treatment method that does not require them to talk, but that can still give them a way to reduce the power of their traumatic memories.
A growing number of organizations that work with veterans are endorsing the use of EMDR in those who have PTSD resulting from combat. Other people who can benefit include victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, and survivors of car accidents and natural or man-made disasters.
Although EMDR is used mostly to treat people with acute or chronic PTSD, it can also be a treatment option for those with other conditions, such as anxiety, eating disorders and addictions.
EMDR is based on the premise that rapid, rhythmic eye movements can reduce the power of traumatic memories and the negative emotional reactions associated with them. In a session lasting up to ninety minutes, your therapist will ask you to recall an emotionally charged event while following a series of hand motions with your eyes. Gradually, the therapist will guide your thoughts to more positive or pleasant ones.
You will be asked to rate your level of distress before and after each session. As you learn which eye movements are most effective for you, you will be able to employ the technique by yourself, between sessions.