Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy that emphasizes disturbing memories as the cause of psychopathology and alleviates the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR is used for individuals who have experienced severe trauma that remains unresolved. However, while the use of EMDR was originally developed to treat adults suffering from PTSD, it is also used to treat children, as well as adults suffering from other conditions.
EMDR therapy is done in an eight-step protocol that includes having clients recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, including side-to-side eye movements. EMDR is a non-invasive therapy method that employs techniques of visualization and relaxation. In a 2007 review of 33 randomised controlled trials of various psychological treatments for PTSD, EMDR was rated as an effective method, not significantly different in effect from Trauma-Focused CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or SM (Stress Management) treatments. However, EMDR did significantly better than other therapies, according to patient self-reports. The International Society of Stress Studies practice guidelines categorized EMDR as an evidence-based level A treatment for PTSD in adults, and a number of international guidelines include EMDR as a recommended treatment for trauma.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to process these distressing memories of trauma, reducing their lingering effects, both emotional and physiological. This technique allows clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms and to come to terms more easily with the traumatic event that has caused their mental instability and physical discomfort.