EMDR therapy is a widely used therapeutic method, but what is it, and how does it work? EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; we will explore what that means. The eye movement part of the therapy applies to the bilateral stimulation that comes from the specified technique for eye movements. Bilateral stimulation takes place from having the eyes move back and forth, but it can also be accomplished by tapping on the shoulders or the legs one by one. Bilateral stimulation is an essential key element to the process because it works to create the necessary electrical activity in various areas of the brain that are all working together to increase communication between the two sides of the brain. What does that all mean? It means that by using methodological eye movements or tapping bilaterally, the brain is triggered to communicate in a way that allows the participant to have better emotional processing or emotional regulation.

The purpose of EMDR therapy is to support people who have PTSD or traumatic events or experiences. EMDR is a versatile tool and can be used for people who have ongoing trauma or one specific traumatic incident. EMDR processing can support people in working through symptoms and emotional outcomes of their trauma or disturbing life experiences. EMDR therapy has been shown to help people in healing from their psychological trauma, similar to how the body can heal from physical wounds—essentially, looking at EMDR as a tool to remove the psychological block from an experience or event and then allow the brain to return to a healthy mental state.

EMDR comprises eight phases, all of which are as important as the others. The first phases revolve around discussing the concerns that are taking place in the current life of the participant. When the clinician explores what is taking place and the present concern, they will then support the participant in going back through memories until they find the original memory linked to the current experience. This is a process and could take several sessions to explore. A treatment plan will then be established, and the reprocessing/eye movements will occur. Over time, and throughout the sessions, the trauma-based response to the experiences will lessen, and desensitization to the experiences will ensue. When the reprocessing work has been worked through to the point of desensitization to the memory, the clinician will then support the participant in attaching a positive feeling to the memory.

EMDR therapy is used for PTSD but can also be used for anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobias, and social anxiety, among other uses. EMDR requires effective coping tools, which your clinician can help you incorporate before the beginning of the reprocessing phase. EMDR therapy can impact people in all different ways, so it is essential to work with your clinician to discuss how to cope with/process the effects of EMDR therapy and ways to support handling the treatment from start to end. If you are interested in EMDR therapy, talk to a certified clinician today.