What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a modality of treatment originally developed for treating trauma in veterans and survivors of sexual violence. Extensively researched and found to be effective, EMDR is now also used to treat a variety of issues including trauma, anxiety, depression, complicated grief, performance anxiety and phobias.
When a disturbing event occurs, elements from the event such as sights, sounds, smells, feelings, thoughts, and body sensations can get locked inside the brain. Usually, our brains process the event, discarding unhelpful elements and retaining helpful ones. Sometimes, however, our brains can get stuck in processing, retaining both the helpful and unhelpful elements from a disturbing event (we often call these triggers). With the help of a trained professional, EMDR can activate the brain’s natural processing abilities to help complete the processing of a traumatic event.
What is an EMDR session like?
After a thorough assessment, you will be asked specific questions about a the disturbing memory you and your therapist have decided to work on. While focusing on one element of the memory, your therapist will guide your eyes through a series of back-and-forth movements by asking you to watch his/her fingers moving backwards and forwards across your visual field. Auditory or tactile options can be substituted for eye movements if the client prefers. The eye movements (or auditory/tactile movements) will last for a short time and then stop. Your therapist will then ask for a brief response from you, described what you experienced during the set of movements. Experiences during a session may include changes in thoughts, images, and feelings. With repeated sets of eye movements, the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory.
Is EMDR the same as hypnosis?
EMDR is not a form of hypnosis. During an EMDR session, you will remain in control, fully alert, aware, and wide-awake. You can stop the process at any time. Throughout the session, the therapist will support and facilitate your own self-healing and intervene as little as possible.
EMDR method of trauma healing is endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the US Department of Health and Human Services.