EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is an integrative psychotherapy that was initially developed to treat trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is now considered one of the evidence based approaches to treating PTSD.
EMDR is also effective in treating a range of different psychological difficulties such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, pain, addiction and personality disorder.
EMDR is based on the Adaptive Information Processing Model which proposes that when an individual experiences traumatic or stressful events, the emotional and physiological reactions they experience make it difficult for the brain to process the event(s). As a result, the memory becomes “frozen in time” so that remembering the event or experiencing sights, sounds, sensations or experiences that are like the original event may trigger feelings that are as bad as the first time.
Such memories may have a lasting negative effect, changing the way people see the world and themselves, and impacting their ability to relate to others.
The goal of EMDR is to allow the brain to process the “frozen” material memory which reduces the distress experienced and allows the individual to finally make sense of their experience. Initially EMDR only used eye movements to stimulate this process in the brain – kind of like what happens when we have REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. However, we now know that it doesn’t have to be eye movements. Bilateral stimulation such as tapping hands or knees or listening to beeps with headphones may also be effective