EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. EMDR therapy was formulated in 1987. The originator and developer of EMDR, psychologist Francine Shapiro, realized that her eye movements seemed to reduce negative emotion associated with her past traumatic memories.
EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapeutic approach that uses eye movements to bolster the treatment of trauma. Extensively researched, EMDR employs a set of standardized protocols that incorporate elements from a variety of treatment approaches. EMDR therapy seems to aid in the processing of painful memories. Specifically, it prevents the negative effects of trauma from being frozen in time in a client’s mind. Thus, EMDR can provide freedom from the past.
EMDR is a therapeutic tool that promotes neural processing while the client is conscious, simulating what occurs in dreaming during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Consequently, EMDR treatment helps a teen or adult face traumatic memories in a less distressing context. First used to treat PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), EMDR therapy is also used in the treatment of substance use disorder, panic attacks, body dysmorphia, and personality disorders.
EMDR treatment takes place in a controlled environment, with each session lasting from 60 to 90 minutes. An EMDR treatment therapist uses both eye movements and other forms of bilateral stimulation to support trauma processing. While developing EMDR therapy, Dr. Shapiro outlined eight phases of treatment. During the eight phases, EMDR therapy addresses past memories, present disturbance, and future actions.
Sources: EMDRIA (EMDR International Association), Permanente Journal – US National Library of Medicine (NIH), History of EMDR (EMDR Institute)