EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a comprehensive psychotherapy that is mainly used for treating trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This type of therapy involves using side-to-side eye movements combined with talk therapy in a structured format to help you process negative images, emotions and beliefs.
When experiencing normal events, your brain stores memories smoothly and connects them to other things you remember. During traumatic events, these connections don’t happen correctly, and this can cause a disconnect between what you experience and what your brain stores in memory.
These traumatic memories being stored incorrectly is what can cause ‘triggers’ which are sights, sounds and smells with a connection or similarity to a traumatic event that can cause feelings of fear, anxiety or panic.
EMDR works by accessing these traumatic memories through the use of eye movements and guided instructions, to help you reprocess what you remember from that negative event and build new connections around it. The idea is that this will lessen the effect of triggers and allow you to remember without feeling like you are reliving the traumatic event.
Typically, EMDR therapy consists of multiple phases over multiple sessions including initial information gathering, assessment and preparation beforehand. After the memories have been accessed and reprocessed, there is usually follow-up sessions focused on closure and giving you tools to continue to manage your condition.
The most widespread use of EMDR is for treating PTSD but it can also be used to treat conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and more.