During EMDR, the patient 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 will demonstrate that emotional distress is reduced, negative beliefs about the self are revised, and physiological discomfort associated with the memory neutralizes.
EMDR therapy has been 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 has also suggested that EMDR may be helpful for individuals with anxiety, depression, dissociative disorders, performance enhancement, and distress related to infertility. To learn more about EMDR click here.