Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) represents a relatively new type of psychotherapy that does not depend on medications and verbal exchanges to mitigate the symptoms of certain forms of mental and emotional distress issues. Instead, EMDR therapy relies on the rapid eye movements of a patient to decrease the emotional power of memories that concern experiencing intense trauma. At one time considered a controversial type of psychotherapy, EMDR therapy has developed into one of the most successful techniques to treat victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has endorsed EMDR therapy as an effective strategy for treating the symptoms of severe and chronic PTSD.
Even the most avid supporters of EMDR therapy do not agree on how the rapid eye movement approach to treating mental and emotional stress issues works. However, a growing number of mental health professionals believe that by recalling past highly emotional events, patients can divert attention from the negative consequences of the events to alleviate the psychological damage. EMDR follows a few of the principles implemented by prolonged exposure therapy, which traditionally has represented the standard for treating patients suffering from acute mental and emotional trauma.
What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy delivers several benefits that make it a popular treatment method among mental health therapists. Perhaps the greatest benefit is this type of psychotherapy addresses the negative outcomes of experiencing a traumatic event, without the need to prescribe medications. It also addresses the development of anxiety that accompanies the aftermath of a traumatic event. The result of a significant reduction in anxiety allows a patient to improve the perception of self-worth, which frequently is a major hurdle to overcome for victims of a traumatic event. Unlike treatments that depend on talking to address one or more mental and emotional distress issues, EMDR therapy produces fast results that require just a few months of commitment to reap the benefits of this type of psychotherapy approach.
What Should I Expect from EMDR Therapy Sessions?
Most EMDR therapy sessions last between 60 and 90 minutes. The sessions start with a brief discussion about how a patient feels before moving on to the rapid eye movement phase of the treatment process. A therapist asks a patient to focus on the movement of fingers placed directly in front of the eyes. At the same time a patient follows the movement of fingers, the therapist asks the patient to recall and briefly describe a past traumatic event, which includes any emotions and physical sensations triggered by recalling a past disturbing event. Some mental health specialists use hand or foot tapping instead of moving their fingers directly in front of the eyes.
EMDR therapy is sometimes implemented as part of a broader strategy for an individual adult therapy program.
Is EMDR Therapy Used Just for Treating PTSD?
PTSD symptoms develop after someone experiences a traumatic event. Members of the military represent the group that PTSD negatively impacts the most often, especially military veterans that have dealt with the mental and emotional health impact of engaging in live combat. However, EMDR therapy is an effective type of psychotherapy for treating other types of mental and emotional health issues.
Anxiety, which can develop from a large number of sources, can be treated with the techniques implemented by EMDR therapy. Victims of panic attacks also appear to benefit from the soothing effect rapid eye movements have on patients suffering from acute anxiety. Recent research breakthroughs indicate EMDR therapy also can be an effective mental health treatment strategy for patients suffering from depression, as well as negative behaviors such as addictions and eating disorders.