(Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy is a powerful type of psychotherapy that was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 as a treatment for traumatic memories. Unlike traditional "talk therapy" that requires the client to tell the story of what happened to them, or exposure therapy which is structured to inhibit avoidance of disturbing material (and during which clients generally experience long periods of high anxiety), EMDR clients generally experience rapid reductions in subjective levels of distress early in the session.
EMDR Therapy evokes and integrates information on three levels - cognitive, emotional and somatic. During EMDR the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief, interrupted "sets" while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Therapist-directed bi-lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus but a variety of other bi-lateral stimuli including tactile (hand-tapping) and audio are often used. The effect of attending to internal memories while focusing on an external stimulus is that the client can remain grounded in the present and remembers, rather than relives the past.
EMDR Therapy is an Adaptive Information Processing model. Adaptive information processing enables new associations to be formed between traumatic and non-traumatic memories which results in new learning, new insights and a reduction of emotional distress. With successful processing of material, the client's relationship to the original trauma has shifted. This is what is meant by the "processing of traumatic memories to an adaptive resolution." The result of treatment with EMDR is a decrease in emotional distress, a reformulation of negative beliefs into positive, life-affirming beliefs, and a re-setting of the nervous system. In short, EMDR reduces or resolves traumatic memories and enhances resilience.
Here is a youtube video of a U.S. Marine being treated for Post Traumatic Stress: