Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic tool which has been effective in helping heal people who have suffered trauma, experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.

A partial list of other conditions that respond well to EMDR are

•    anxiety
•    panic attacks
•    agoraphobia
•    excessive anger
•    depression
•    sexual abuse
•    victim of rape
•    death of a loved one

Recovery through EMDR therapy is more rapid than traditional psychotherapy, which often continues for years. Much depends on how long a person has had the problem. Deeply rooted issues require more than one or two sessions.

History of EMDR

Dr. Francine Shapiro is a psychologist and teacher. She discovered the concept of EMDR on herself. [1]

She noticed that when she moved her eyes from side to side, her negative thoughts and memories were less disturbing.  After testing with volunteers and further research, she concluded that these simple eye movement exercises may have therapeutic value.  She developed a standard procedure to maximize therapeutic outcomes.  In 1995, she published a textbook detailing the eight phases of this form of psychotherapy. EMDR is now recognized as an effective treatment for trauma with practical guidelines, including those of the American Psychiatric Association and the US Department of Justice.

Personal Experience with EMDR Therapy

I had an accident in which I hit a boy riding his bike. The sounds of the accident replayed in my head over and over for weeks. The sounds of his bike scraping the asphalt under my car, and his scream, "Why did you hit me?" I'm grateful and thank God that I didn't kill him or maim him for life.

I was going to a support group at the time. In response to my distraught condition post-accident, the facilitator (a certified EMDR therapist) gave me EMDR therapy which resulted in the sounds of the accident being silenced. I could conjure them up at will, if I wished, but they were no longer haunting me.

The therapist sat across from me and moved her first two fingers from right to left in front of my eyes; I followed her finger movements.  Maintaining the eye movement, I verbalized what had happened, my feelings about the situation, and the outcome I wanted to have.  This one EMDR session was effective in reducing my personal feelings of stress.

Traditional psychotherapy is sometimes utilized in addition to EMDR or hypnosis.[2]  One can talk about traumatic events and disturbing memories for months. It is helpful, but often takes a long time to effect change.

EMDR enables the brain to reprocess disturbing memories through the eye movements. Focusing on one specific event during a session, change is more quickly achieved compared to other therapeutic methods.