Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, combines multiple facets of several extremely effective therapy treatments in a controlled environment created to provide optimum results. Some of the therapy methods that lend their techniques to EMDR include body-centered therapy, psychodynamic therapies, and cognitive behavioral therapies. This type of therapy is best known for its use in post traumatic stress treatment.

What are EMDR Sessions Like?

EMDR is delivered in a series of eight phases and gives attention to negative and traumatic memories and how they relate to the past, present, and future. The client is encouraged to access the stored traumatic memory briefly while maintaining focus on external stimulus delivered by the therapist. These cues can include hand tapping, vocal cues, and/or eye movement. After each brief session of dual attention, the client and therapist work to identify what feelings and data were drawn forth and associated with the stimulus during the process. This discovery then serves as the focus for the following session. Each therapy session usually involves multiple mini-sessions of dual attention and association.

Theory Behind EMDR

Although EMDR blends various elements of multiple disciplines of psychotherapy, it is unique in its use of bilateral stimulation techniques. EMDR rests on the theory that traumatic memories are housed in a dysfunctional manner within our memory mechanism and remain unprocessed due to the lack of coping skills that we possess. The two key views of EMDR are identified as the belief that eye movements enhance the efficacy of therapeutic treatment through the development of physiological and neurological transformations and that these changes actually assist the client in healing and recovering from the negative memories. The second view is founded on the theory that eye movement is merely a physiological method of internal desensitization to the emotional reaction to the memory.

Client Experience of EMDR

Because EMDR actively engages the memory network, a client can experience extreme reactions at the time the memory is recovered. Many people who witness or are themselves subjected to a traumatic event may suffer from flashbacks due to the unresolved memories. This form of treatment serves as a tool for proper and adequate resolution of debilitating and frightening memories.