What is EMDR? EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and is a method used for the treatment of the consequences of experienced traumatic events. It is often used as a treatment method for post traumatic stress disorder, but it can be very useful for other disorders and problems as well.
EMDR attempts to minimize the emotional distress connected to the memory of the traumatic event. As a result the client can recall memories without experiencing the negative emotional distress. So the traumatic memory will become ‘just an ordinary memory’.
What does it look like? During the treatment, the therapist will ask you to tell about your experienced traumatic event, and to concentrate on the part of the event which you experience as most traumatic. While concentrating on this, you have to follow the therapists finger with your eyes, as the finger is moving from left to right and back. It is also possible that you have to listen to sounds coming out of a headphone, that are alternating left and right. Finally, another option is that the therapist will touch your hands, again alternating left and right.
How does it work? The exact mechanism of EMDR is not known, but that it is effective is for sure. The WHO (World Health Organization) describes it as the most effective treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. A recent theory is the working memory theory. It states that the working memory can handle more than one task at the same time, but nevertheless has a limited capacity. That is why there a kind of conflict can occur between the tasks you perform, which can have a negative influence on these tasks. So whilst you’re trying to concentrate on traumatic memories and at the same time follow a moving finger, a striking effect is that the emotional distress experienced with the traumatic memory, will slowly diminish. Your traumatic memory will become ‘just an ordinary memory’.