EMDR Therapy is a set of evidence-based practices designed to help people overcome trauma. As an eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing method, it helps to address the underlying emotional issues that contribute to psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The research behind EMDR shows that the brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. When this process is blocked by a disturbing experience, the wound festers and can result in intense suffering. EMDR is thought to unlock this block and activate the brain’s natural healing processes.

The first EMDR session begins with a discussion of the client’s history and goals for treatment. The therapist will evaluate the client’s emotional stability, and if needed, will teach tools to ease distress during and between sessions. They will also explain the theory of EMDR and review a series of protocols and procedures to ensure the safety of both the patient and the therapist during this work.

In the following sessions, the therapist will help you identify possible targets for EMDR processing, including disturbing memories, current situations, and physical sensations. The therapist will also help you learn self-care techniques to use when disturbing images and feelings arise between sessions. This is especially important, as some clients can become very upset by the initial triggering of negative thoughts and memories during the initial stages of EMDR.

During the EMDR Therapy process, you will recall the target memory while your therapist directs you through a series of rapid eye movements or alternating sounds or tactile stimulation. The therapist will ask you to focus on the image while your attention is split between the internal image and the stimuli. The rapid eye movements appear to mirror the activity in your brain that occurs during REM sleep or dreaming, and is thought to enable you to view experiences in a new, less distressing light.

While you think about your target memory, your therapist will also ask you to scan your body from head to toe, looking for any lingering physical tension or responses. Afterward, they will replace any negative beliefs surrounding the event with healthier ones and encourage you to think about the positive aspects of the memory. EMDR has been shown to be effective in multiple studies and is recognized by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Defense, and the World Health Organization for treating anxiety.

Although EMDR was originally developed for helping people recover from PTSD, it has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions in all ages. EMDR is particularly useful for people who have experienced a variety of types of trauma, such as interpersonal violence, military sexual assault, motor vehicle accidents, and natural disasters. It is also a powerful tool for working with grief and loss, depression, phobias, and eating disorders. It has also been used to help with the coping and recovery associated with medical and traumatic illness, such as cancer.