What is EMDR? Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a non-drug, non-hypnosis psychotherapy procedure. The therapist guides the client in concentrating on a troubling memory or emotion while moving the eyes rapidly back and forth (by following the therapist’s fingers). This rapid eye movement, which occurs naturally during dreaming, seems to speed the client’s movement through the healing process.
What is it used for? EMDR is used to treat troubling symptoms such as anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, and post-traumatic reactions. It can also be used to enhance emotional resources such as confidence and self -esteem.
What happens in a session? EMDR is different for everyone, because the healing process is guided from within. Sometimes past issues or memories come up, which are related to the current concern. These may also be treated with EMDR. Sometimes a painful memory brings up unpleasant emotions or body sensations. This is normal and generally passes during the EMDR. The upsetting emotion or memory seems to fade into the past and lose its’ power.
Why bring up a painful memory? When painful memories are avoided, they keep their disturbing power. However, a flashback or nightmare can feel as upsetting and overwhelming as the original experience, yet not be helpful. In therapy, and with EMDR, you can face the memory in a safe setting, so that you do not feel overwhelmed. Then you can get through it and move on.
Will I be in Control? You are always in charge of whether to continue or stop. You are in charge of your process. The therapist serves as a guide to help you stay on track and get the most out of the session and may encourage you to continue through difficult parts.
Are there any precautions? Yes. There are specific procedures to be followed depending on your presenting problem, emotional stability and medical condition. Your therapist must have been trained to use EMDR in the appropriate manner.
What happens afterwards? You may continue to process the material for days or even weeks after the session, perhaps having new insights, vivid dreams, strong feelings or memory recall. This is all part of the natural healing process and you are encouraged to note anything in a journal, and call your therapist should you feel concerned.
How can I learn more about EMDR? You can read articles about EMDR and find links to other EMDR-related sites by clicking on EMDR Info & Links.
Contributed by Beth Burton Krahn, MA, RCC
Copyright© Ricky Greenwald, Psy.D.. Created: 6/2/00 Updated: 2/8/03