Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic technique that uses eye movements to process painful memories.The aim of EMDR is to reduce the distress associated with painful memories. Therapy with EMDR involves the recreation of eye movements, similar to those during rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep.
Your therapist will ask you to bring to mind an image associated with a traumatic memory, then they will move their finger to and fro across your visual field. This will continue for a short while before your therapist will stop and ask you to comment on your experiences during the set of eye movements. It is likely you will notice some changes in the image you started with, thoughts about it and sensations in your body.
Following several sets of eye movements, the painful memory becomes more neutral and loses its intensity. Generally at the end of EMDR therapy sessions, clients report an improvement in their mood and the removal of unpleasant thoughts, feelings and body sensations when they recall a traumatic event. EMDR also has a cognitive component, so that the beliefs you have about yourself become more adaptive.
The 2012 World Health Organisation Practice guidelines recommend EMDR as a frontline treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, but it has also been successfully used to treat other types of anxiety, depression, stress, phobia, sleep problems, addiction problems, complex grief and pain. A good deal of research has established that EMDR is an effective, reliable and valid treatment.
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