EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a nontraditional form of trauma therapy that helps people recover relatively quickly from traumas they have experienced. EMDR honors the mind’s natural instinct to heal itself by giving it an opportunity to safely re-experience and recover from traumatic events. This occurs by the client forming new connections and interpretations of the traumatic event in the brain, and diminishing the client’s negative feelings associated with the memories of the traumatic events.
Unprocessed traumas can feel “as if” they are currently happening in the present, even if they are in the past. EMDR helps to reprocess these memories so that the client can experience the event as actually being in the past and open to a new future.
During EMDR sessions, the therapist uses a hand motion to guide the client’s eye movements from side to side. When following the therapist’s fingers back and forth, both the left and right brain are activated to help process the traumatic event. This is called “bilateral stimulation,” which often does not occur when the trauma was first experienced when the brain was in “fight or flight” mode. The bilateral stimulation of moving one’s eyes left and right also mimics the REM cycle that happens when we sleep, as our brain is trying to “work things out.”
EMDR is an evidence-based method. Rather than severe emotional pain requiring a long time to heal, “repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy, people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference” (EMDR Institute, Inc). After successful treatment with EMDR, the client’s distress is relieved and their negative beliefs are transformed.
For more information about EMDR, please visit the EMDR Institute website.