Reviewed by our psychologist : Nine Gramberg
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a commonly used treatment method in psychology. EMDR is mainly used to treat symptoms caused by trauma and PTSD. But what exactly is EMDR and how does this type of therapy work? Read this article to find out more.
An overview of this article:
iPractice offers everyone:
Reimbursed care with a rating of 9+
Immediate help without waiting
Free advice without obligation
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a type of therapy used to help people process trauma. The acronym stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. In EMDR treatment, a psychologist helps you to reduce the emotional charge associated with a distressing memory. You won’t forget what happened, but the emotions connected to it will become less strong. This could be a good solution if you have (long-term) symptoms as a result of trauma.
When is EMDR used?
Amongst other things, EMDR is used when you’ve experienced trauma: in other words, a shocking event or disturbing series of events. Trauma can cause quite a few symptoms. For example, you may suffer from:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Avoidant behaviors
If you’re finding it difficult to properly process your trauma, it may be a good idea to seek help from a psychologist. EMDR is one option for treatment, alongside cognitive behavioral therapy.
Click here to learn more about treatments for trauma.
EMDR for PTSD
EMDR is also used as a treatment if you’re suffering from PTSD. People with PTSD experience long-term symptoms of trauma, or they don’t experience any symptoms until weeks, months, or even years after the event. Click here to read about PTSD or here to read about treating PTSD.
EMDR as part of your treatment
How does EMDR work?
As part of EMDR treatment, your psychologist will ask you a number of questions. These will make you think back to the distressing even that caused your trauma, and your therapist will gather information about the event. Then the processing part will begin. The psychologist will ask you to think back to the event again. Meanwhile, they’ll use a distracting stimulus: The psychologist will move their fingers up and down in front of your eyes. You’ll follow these movements with your eyes while thinking about the memory. Distractions might also come in the form of noises or taps to the knees.
What are the effects of EMDR?
As your working memory struggles to process everything that’s happening, your memory of the traumatic event starts to fade. It won’t completely go away, but the emotional charge associated with the memory will diminish.
As a result, you’ll find it much easier to think back to particular scenarios without feeling any fear or anxiety. You won’t feel overcome with emotions when someone or something reminds you of the traumatic event. You’ll experience fewer flashbacks and your avoidant behaviors will decrease as a result.
What are the side effects of EMDR?
EMDR is an intensive treatment that requires a lot of work from your brain. This may cause you to experience certain side effects after an EMDR session, including:
- A new range of images and emotions racing through your mind
Usually, these symptoms won’t last longer than three days.
Want to know more about EMDR?
Do you have any questions about EMDR treatment, or would you like to talk directly to a psychologist? It is possible to recover from trauma or PTSD. In many cases, you’ll see an improvement with EMDR. Call or request a consultation. A psychologist can advise you whether EMDR is appropriate for your situation, helping you to receive suitable and effective treatment.