Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy treatment that is used on individuals who have experienced trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. EMDR can alleviate symptoms associated with that trauma and those traumatic memories. EMDR aims to remove the block that prevents individuals from healing, much like removing a bullet or knife from a wound would cause the body to begin the healing process. The brain will naturally move toward healing once the mental block or imbalance has been removed.
EMDR occurs in eight phases. The therapist will decide which traumatic memory to target and asks the individual to focus on it. The individual will be asked to track the therapist’s hands as they move them back and forth in the individual’s line of sight. It is believed that these eye movements (also called bilateral stimulation) are similar to the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM). This prompts the individual to start processing the traumatic memory and the feelings that come along with it. The feelings and emotions surrounding the event are transformed, and individuals are left feeling empowered. It isn’t up to the therapist to process these newfound emotions surrounding the traumatic memory; it is the individual’s own intellectual and emotional processes accelerated during the EMDR process that help them come to these conclusions on their own.
EMDR has proved so effective because it can provide healing results comparable to healing breakthroughs that are achieved only after years of psychotherapy treatment. It operates on the idea that, contrary to popular belief, it does not always take years to heal severe emotional pain. Much like the body heals from physical trauma, the mind can also heal quickly from psychological trauma.
EMDR is not solely used to alleviate the stress and symptoms associated with PTSD and traumatic memories. It is a strong, evidence-based treatment that has proved effective for a range of disorders and conditions, including dissociative disorders, anxiety, and eating disorders.