What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a systematic therapy model that allows people to more rapidly process past trauma and negative thoughts and emotions. EMDR is especially effective for treating Post traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, and processing past pain.
It is a brain-based therapy, meaning that it’s roots are in neuroscience and the way the brain processes and stores memories both emotionally and logically. Naturally our brains store emotional memory in on part of the brain, and narrative/ language-based memories in another; this approach essentially bridges the gap which is what speeds the recovery process.
The Mechanics of EMDR
EMDR uses a form of auditory, visual, or tactile stimulation to keep both hemispheres of the brain engaged while processing. EMDR can be facilitated using the therapist’s fingers moving from side to side across your vision. It can also be facilitated using auditory means, by using a set of headphones that alternate which ear is hearing music. EMDR is also facilitated using “tappers” which are little electronic devices/ pads that emit vibration to your hands (no stronger than a cell phone) on an alternating basis.
EMDR does require extensive training and is only available with certain therapists. This approach has detailed protocols and procedures to aid and protect the client while processing traumatic material.
What does the research say?
Several studies have shown that clients can have results from EMDR therapy in as few as 3-6 sessions. Between 77% and 90% of participants in these studies no longer qualified for a diagnosis of Post-traumatic stress disorder following 12 sessions of EMDR. For further information regarding EMDR’s effectiveness and the principals behind it, check out the EMDR institute or EMDR international.
What EMDR is NOT
EMDR is NOT hypnosis or in any way related to hypnosis. During the experience you are completely aware and conscious of everything that is happening just like if you were having a standard therapy session. EMDR is NOT about digging up repressed memories. You do not have to close your eyes during the process. You do not have to verbalize things you are not ready or wanting to talk about yet. As described in the previous paragraph EMDR is simply a neurologically-based approach to help your brain reprocess information and speed your healing process.
why haven't i heard about this?
EMDR has been around for over 25 years and has been repeatedly validated by research. It cannot be practiced without an EMDR trained therapist, so it’s availability ranges with the availability of therapists trained in the model. In the professional therapy community knowledge of the approach and it’s effectiveness has been growing and with that, the number of therapists pursuing the training to offer this modality to clients has increased.