Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new, nontraditional type of psychotherapy. It’s growing in popularity, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD often occurs after experiences such as physical assault, rape, or traumatic events.
EMDR does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, it uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. These eye movements dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events.
During an EMDR treatment session , the therapist moves his or her fingers back and forth in front of the child, asking the child to follow these hand motions with his or her eyes. At the same time, the therapist will have the child recall a disturbing event. This will include the emotions and body sensations that go along with it.
Gradually, the therapist will guide the child to shift his or her thoughts to more pleasant ones. Some therapists use alternatives to finger movements, such as hand or toe tapping or musical tones.
People who use the technique say that EMDR can weaken the effect of negative emotions. The goal is that disturbing memories will become less disabling.
Although most research into EMDR has examined its use in people with PTSD, it is also used to treat many other psychological problems. They include:
EMDR is used to help speed up the healing process when applied in conjunction with other therapies.