What is EMDR?

Borrowed from the EMDR Institute:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)is a powerful therapeutic form of healing trauma based problems and bringing unfinished issues to a completion. EMDR is a form of therapy that integrates elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment outcomes. These include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies.

When a traumatic or very negative event occurs, information processing may be incomplete, perhaps because strong negative feelings or dissociation interfere with information processing. This prevents the forging of connections with more adaptive information that is held in other memory networks. For example, a rape survivor may “know” that rapists are responsible for their crimes, but this information does not connect with her feeling that she is to blame for the attack. The memory is then dysfunctionally stored without appropriate associative connections and with many elements still unprocessed. When the individual thinks about the trauma, or when the memory is triggered by similar situations, the person may feel like she is reliving it, or may experience strong emotions and physical sensations. A prime example is the intrusive thoughts, emotional disturbance, and negative self-referencing beliefs of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is not only major traumatic events, that can cause psychological disturbance. Sometimes a relatively minor event from childhood, such as being teased by one’s peers or disparaged by one’s parent, may not be adequately processed. Such painful memories can result in personality problems and become the basis of current dysfunctional reactions.

American Psychiatric Association (2004). Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines.

• EMDR was determined to be an effective treatment of trauma. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense (2004). VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress. Washington, DC.

• EMDR was placed in the "A" category as “strongly recommended” for the treatment of trauma.

The EMDR Journal of Research and Practice, is a publication that provides the latest research on effectiveness of EMDR.

For more information on EMDR and the results of recent research visit: emdr.com