"Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, abbreviated as EMDR, is a therapy used for individuals who continue to experience the effects of traumatic experiences, such as accidents, sexual violence, or violent incidents. EMDR was first described by American psychologist Francine Shapiro over 25 years ago. In the years following, this procedure was further developed and evolved into a comprehensive and effective therapeutic method.
EMDR is intended for the treatment of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related anxiety symptoms. These are symptoms that have arisen as a direct result of a concrete distressing event, where even thinking about it still elicits an emotional response.
Does EMDR Work?
There has been extensive scientific research conducted on the effectiveness of EMDR. The results indicate that clients respond well to EMDR. EMDR is a brief therapy. For individuals dealing with trauma from a single traumatic event, they are often able to resume their daily activities after only a few sessions. For individuals who have experienced prolonged trauma and complex issues, the treatment duration will naturally be longer.
How Do You Determine if EMDR Can Be Applied?
At the beginning of EMDR therapy, thorough attention will be given to the cause and background of the symptoms. Additionally, an assessment is made of several individual characteristics, including personal resilience and the impact of the symptoms. This will determine whether targeted trauma treatment is necessary at that moment, and whether EMDR can be used for that purpose.
What Preparations Are Needed?
EMDR often works quickly. Additionally, it can also be an intensive therapy. Therefore, the therapist will not only explain what they are going to do and why, but will also discuss in depth how the client can best manage their emotions.
How Does EMDR Work?
The therapist will ask the client to recall the event, along with the associated images, thoughts, and feelings. Initially, this is done to gather more information about the traumatic experience. Afterward, the processing phase begins. The therapist will ask the client to recall the event while simultaneously being exposed to a distracting stimulus. In many cases, this is the therapist's hand moving back and forth or sounds presented through headphones alternating between left and right. The process involves working with sets of stimuli. After each set, a break is taken. The therapist will ask the client what thoughts come up. The EMDR process typically triggers a stream of thoughts, images, feelings, and sometimes physical sensations. Often, changes occur. The client is then asked to concentrate on the most noticeable change before proceeding to the next set.
What Are the Expected Effects?
Over time, the sets will lead to a reduction in the strength and emotional impact of the memory. Consequently, it becomes increasingly easier to think about the original event. In many cases, the memory itself also changes, becoming fuzzier or smaller, for example. It's also possible that less distressing aspects of the same situation come to the fore. Another possibility is that new thoughts or insights spontaneously arise that give the event a different, less threatening meaning. These effects contribute to integrating the traumatic experience into the person's life history."