This therapeutic technique is generally used to lessen the emotional impact of trauma by replacing traumatic memories with positive or less distressing thoughts and reactions. Unlike most forms of talk therapy, EDMR focuses less on the traumatic events and more on the emotions and symptoms that result from the event. The treatment includes a hand motion technique used by the therapist to guide the clients’ eyes from side to side, similar to watching a pendulum swing.
While EMDR is a controversial intervention due to the fact the it’s not exactly clear how it is supposed to work, with some psychologists claiming it does not work, there are some studies which have shown that EMDR is effective for treating certain mental health conditions. It was initially developed to treat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and phobias, but some therapists also use it to treat depression, treating disorders, schizophrenia, sexual dysfunction, and stress caused by chronic disease.
As mentioned, the goal of EDMR is to fully process past traumatic experiences and sort out the emotions attached to those experiences. Negative thoughts and feelings that no longer serve a purpose are replaced with positive ones that encourage healthier behavior and social interactions.
EDMR therapy consists of eight phases:
- History and treatment planning.
- Preparation, establishing trust and explaining the treatment in-depth.
- Assessment, establishing negative feelings and identifying positive replacements.
- Desensitization, which includes the eye movement technique.
- Installation, strengthening positive replacements.
- Body scan, to see if the client is now able to bring up memories of trauma without experiencing any negative feelings.
- Closure, which occurs at the end of every session.
- Re-evaluation, which occurs at the start of each session.