Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) methodology is a form of adaptive information processing which enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. It also appears that EMDR may avoid some of the long and difficult abreactive work often involved in the treatment of anxiety, panic attack, posttraumatic stress symptoms (such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks), dissociative disorders, depression, phobias, identity crisis and other traumatic experiences.
We do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
EMDR requires a series of structured treatment steps based on the client’s history. These include the identification of a presenting issue and a self- report measure of intensity of distress, identification of the negative cognition associated with the presenting issue, and the emotional and physical correlates of the trauma. The purpose of EMDR is to help clients change a negative experience into an adaptive learning experience. This is accomplished by helping clients learn from their negative experiences of the past, desensitizing present triggers that are inappropriately distressing, and incorporating templates for the appropriate future action that will allow the client to excel individually. Additionally, a positive cognition relating to the client’s self- image is identified as a treatment goal.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a method that can be generalized to all populations and individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It may be singularly appropriate for biracial and culturally diverse clients because of its ability to allow the client to frame and explore his or her experiences without a clinician’s interpretation. Due to the fact that eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a relatively bias free, flexible method aimed to help the individual client in a unique fashion, its treatment is currently one of the best methods to use in treating post-traumatic stress disorder in individuals of all cultures.