EMDR Therapy

Online source:  www.webmd.com

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new type of psychotherapy. It’s growing in popularity, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD often occurs after experiences such as military combat, physical assault, rape, or car accidents.

Although research continues, EMDR remains controversial among some healthcare professionals.

At first glance, EMDR appears to approach psychological issues in an unusual way. It does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, EMDR uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. These eye movements dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events.

What Can You Expect From EMDR?

If you suffer from PTSD, what can you expect during an EMDR treatment session — which can last up to 90 minutes? Your therapist will move his or her fingers back and forth in front of your face and ask you to follow these hand motions with your eyes. At the same time, the EMDR therapist will have you recall a disturbing event. This will include the emotions and body sensations that go along with it.

Gradually, the therapist will guide you to shift your thoughts to more pleasant ones. Some therapists use alternatives to finger movements, such as hand or toe tapping or musical tones.

People who use the technique argue that EMDR can weaken the effect of negative emotions. Before and after each EMDR treatment, your therapist will ask you to rate your level of distress. The hope is that your disturbing memories will become less disabling.

Although most research into EMDR has examined its use in people with PTSD, EMDR is also used to treat many other psychological problems. They include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Addictions
  • Anxiety, such as discomfort with public speaking or dental procedures

How Effective Is EMDR?

More than 20,000 practitioners have been trained to use EMDR since psychologist Francine Shapiro developed the technique in 1989. While walking through the woods one day, Shapiro happened to notice that her own negative emotions lessened as her eyes darted from side to side. Then, she found the same positive effect in patients.

EMDR appears to be a safe therapy, with no negative side effects. Still, despite its increasing use, mental health practitioners debate EMDR’s effectiveness. Critics note that most EMDR studies have involved only small numbers of participants. Other researchers, though, have shown the treatment’s effectiveness in published reports that consolidated data from several studies.

What Do the Guidelines Recommend?

Guidelines issued by more than one professional organization have recently boosted the credibility of EMDR. These guidelines define who may benefit from the treatment. For example:

  • The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has noted that EMDR is effective for treating symptoms of acute and chronic PTSD. According to the APA, EMDR may be particularly useful for people who have trouble talking about the traumatic events they’ve experienced. The APA guidelines note that other research is needed to tell whether improvements from EMDR can be sustained over time.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have jointly issued clinical practice guidelines. These guidelines “strongly recommended” EDMR for the treatment of PTSD in both military and non-military populations. They also note that this approach has been as effective as other psychological treatments in some studies, and less effective in others.

How Does EMDR Work?

Even the most enthusiastic supporters of EMDR have not agreed on how the therapy works. At this point, only theories exist. Some therapists believe that EMDR reduces anxiety. This allows patients to better take control of their upsetting thoughts. Others simply say that we don’t yet understand how EMDR works. According to the APA guidelines, EMDR needs further study to more fully understand it.


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Note:  A friend of mine was successful with EMDR.   She was skeptical at first, but stuck with it.  As for me, I am not sold on this type of therapy.

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11 thoughts on “EMDR Therapy

  1. I tried EMDR with my therapist. I was there for one thing, however, my past, which he would have no knowledge popped out. Things I had blocked out for decades and later verified with my older siblings came through. Now dealing with the issues I originally went there for, is the difficult part. I was sexually abused by my doctor and it appears the State Attorney’s Officeis dragging their feet on pressing charges against him. After the life I have had of sexual abuse, this is the last thing I need as an adult is to NEVER have closure.

    • So happy this is working for you. As mentioned before, it was my friend who told me she was entering into this type of therapy. She would also tell me of her therapist’s type of therapy (EMDR), and frankly I thought it was nonsence. But, it really worked for her. Perhaps I could have used this therapy since my psychotherapy was a disaster.

  2. I’ve just been writing about EMDR on my blog – I’ve been having a number of sessions and yeah, the results have been nothing short of miraculous. I am intensely grateful my original therapist referred me to the second one who does EMDR. Honestly, I think its saving my sanity!

  3. I began EMDR therapy in September of 2008. I did not really believe it would work, but gave it a try anyway. The results, for me, have been amazing. I have been in and out of therapy for years dealing with long-term trauma. I did not believe that such results were possible. I do not know how it works; but for me, it works!

    • I know, my friend felt the same as you, and didn’t even want to continue with this new therapy. But something told her to stick with it due to the assurance of the therapist and she said it really worked. I am however still skeptical of this process.

  4. For a dramatic person the uniqueness of the EMDR will motivate them to “being cured.” as the placebo pill has done with a level of the population. However, with the practical person, they see it as a form of “voodooism,” and they no longer wish to continue therapy with that therapist. I have seen the Veterans, who felt trapped into it, if they wanted care and the civilains who left it. And of course a very few who thought it was great. As the research shows it has no scientific validity. It actually reflecs on the Mental Health Profession as a Voodoo experience. Bear/

    • Yes, and as far as this treatment, I can only go on what a friend has said of her experience. I have experienced a very negative effect with psychotherapy, so was not about to jump into this EMDR. Some of what the therapy was like as she described seemed really like “hogwash” and a bit “voodooish”, but it seemed to have helped her. That’s the main thing.

  5. I had never heard of this therapy, but researched it and I guess therapists are using it more and more. A close friend of mine went to a therapist who practiced this method, and frankly when she told me what was involved I kind of snickered to myself and thought it was hogwash. She somewhat felt the same way, but kept going and actually said it was helpful for her PTSD. She didn’t see dramatic results, but was getting nowhere with the traditional psychotherapy. It took a few sessions to get used to the difference between just talking with a therapist. So happy you felt better with this method.

  6. I can’t honestly say I understand why this works, but for me, in addressing childhood emotional abuse, it has been helping. I though it was BS at first, but you know what? I actually felt better after only a couple days. It’s worth trying, just make sure you get someone who has studied both sections of the training, and isn’t practicing on you. There don’t seem to be any side effects, as in medication. I’d say if you’d be willing to try anything to feel better, this has better results than many therapies I’ve tried. An ex-cop who was there at 9-11 found it helped as well. Best to all. Remember, you are worthwhile, even if sometimes you don’t think so.

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