Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
Typical EMDR sessions are 90 – 120 minutes, or 60 minutes two days in a row. How long EMDR takes depends of the memory, life circumstances, the amount of distressing, traumatic events an individual has had in his or her life. Research conducted over the last 20+ years supports the effectiveness of EMDR as a rapid and effective treatment.
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post-traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:
- Panic attacks
- Complicated grief
- Dissociative disorders
- Disturbing memories
- Pain disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Stress reduction
- Sexual and/or Physical abuse
- Body dysmorphic disorders
- Personality Disorders