This explanation comes directly from the EMDR International Association:

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a powerful psychotherapy approach that has helped over an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress.  Designated as an effective treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and more.

What kind of problems can EMDR Therapy treat?

Scientific research has established EMDR therapy as effective for post traumatic stress.  However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR therapy in the treatment of the following conditions:

              Personality disorders                    Panic Attacks

              Complicated grief                          Dissociative Disorders

              Body Dysmorphic Disorders       Disturbing Memories

              Phobias                                               Eating Disorders

              Performance Anxiety                     Stress Reduction

              Sexual and physical abuse          Addictions

              Anxiety and depression symptoms

How was EMDR Therapy Developed?

 

In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions  Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically, and in a 1989 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, she reported success using EMDR therapy to treat victims of trauma.  Since then, EMDR therapy has developed and evolved through the contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world.  Today, EMDR therapy is a set of standardized protocols that incorporate elements from many different treatment approaches.

What is the actual EMDR Therapy session like?

During EMDR therapy, the therapist works with the lient to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment session.  The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event.  The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content.  Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values.  Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one's self; for example, "I did the best I could."  During EMDR therapy, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.

EMDR therapy seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information.  Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR therapy session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds and feelings when the event is brought to mind in the same way.  You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting.  Many types of therapy have similar goals.  However, EMDR therapy appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.  Therefore, EMDR therapy can be thought of as a psychologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less disturbing way.

How long does EMDR therapy take?

One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR therapy is an appropriate treatment.  The therapist will also discuss EMDR therapy more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method.  Once the therapist and the client have agreed that EMDR therapy is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin.

A typical EMDR therapy session lasts from 60 - 90 minutes.  The type of problem, life circumstances and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary.  EMDR therapy may be used within a standard "talking" therapy protocol, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.

Does EMDR therapy really work?

Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR therapy.  These studies have consistently found that EMDR therapy effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients.  Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety.  The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR therapy as an effective treatment for PTSD.  EMDR was also found effective by the World Health Organizaton (WHO), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health and many other international health agencies.  The national registry (nREPP) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), cites EMDR therapy as evidence based practice for the treatment of PTSD, anxiety and depression symptoms.  Research has also shown that EMDR therapy can be an efficient and rapid treatment.

For more information: please go to www.emdria.org

This therapist is an EMDRIA trained therapist who is a member in good standing of EMDRIA.org and has been supervised by people who work directly with Francine Shapiro PhD.