EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is an integrated psychotherapy treatment developed to relieve symptoms caused by disturbing and unresolved life experiences. EMDR therapy is known as the most effective method for healing PTSD, along with other issues such as anxiety, grief, intrusive memories, and relationship problems. The goal of EMDR therapy is to help a person identify and process these stuck pieces so that the symptoms can decrease and one can feel more alive and less distressed. This process is through bilateral stimulation, right-to-left eye movement, tactile stimulation, or sound. By activating both sides of the brain, one is able to process emotional experiences, which are trapped or blocked in the nervous system. This ultimately generates a mind-body connection and allows oneself to free the blocks and regain mental and emotional health.
It is still a mystery how EMDR therapy works. However, when a person is very upset, his/her/their brain cannot process information as it does normally. In one moment an event is frozen in time, and remembering the event may feel as horrible as going through it the first time. This is because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings have not changed. The event is basically frozen in one’s body. These stored memories have a lasting, negative effect on the way an individual sees and relates to their environment. EMDR therapy seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain functions; normal information processing is resumed following a successful EMDR therapy session. The images, sounds, and feelings are no longer upsetting one’s nervous system when the disturbing event is brought to mind. The event is still in one’s memory; however, the disturbance and emotional connection to it dissipates.
During EMDR therapy, I work with the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, and what thoughts and beliefs currently are held about that event. Then I facilitate with directional movement of the eyes or other bilateral stimulation of the brain while the client focuses on the disturbing material. The client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. People process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. It is important to understand that there is no way for the client to do EMDR therapy incorrectly! Sets of eye movements or bilateral stimulation are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thought and beliefs about one's self. During EMDR therapy, one might experience intense emotions and by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.