EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a structured psychotherapy used to treat clients who have experienced traumatic and disturbing life experiences. The therapy treats symptoms and optimizes the client’s ability to respond adaptively to their challenges, gaining a sense of empowerment. Successful EMDR treatment helps to relieve emotional distress, reformulate negative beliefs and reduce physiological arousal. EMDR is an information processing therapy technique that follows an eight-phase treatment approach. The trained EMDR therapist works closely with the client during each phase. The initial two phases focus on understanding the presenting problem and establishing the suitability of EMDR as a treatment modality.
Phase 3 is the start of more intensive therapy, where the client focusses on a targeted memory and/or image, while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movement). This allows their brain to process memories that may have been ‘blocked’, causing distress when triggered. During EMDR therapy the brain begins to process stored information, moving it towards a state of resolution (‘unblocking’). This processing will commonly continue for hours or days (24-48hrs) after the therapy session. Clients are recommended to engage in adaptive coping and distraction techniques following their sessions. Examples include meditation, yoga and personal self-care strategies.