Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a structured therapy that encourages the client to focus briefly on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help.
Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create an overwhelming feeling of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and PTSD symptoms. Ongoing research supports positive clinical outcomes showing EMDR therapy as a helpful treatment for disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences (Maxfield, 2019). EMDR therapy has even been superior to Prozac in trauma treatment (Van der Kolk et al., 2007). Shapiro and Forrest (2016) share that more than 7 million people have been treated successfully by 110,000 therapists in 130 countries since 2016.