During an EMDR session, the client focuses on specific aspects of a disturbing memory (e.g., image, beliefs, emotions, and sensations). At the same time, the therapist provides “bilateral stimulation,” using eye movements, alternating sounds, or hand-held pulsars. The combination of bilateral stimulation with the therapist’s guidance facilitates an updated, adaptive integration of the memory. A successful treatment demonstrates a reduction in emotional distress, revised negative beliefs about the self, and neutralized physiological discomfort previously associated with the memory.
EMDR therapy is recommended as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in the practice guidelines of a wide range of organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, and the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies. The positive effects of EMDR have been supported by a meta-analysis of 26 randomized controlled studies (Lee & Cuijpers, 2013). Research supports EMDR as a helpful treatment approach for individuals with anxiety, depression, performance enhancement, and distress related to infertility. To learn more about EMDR click here.