EMDR is a research-based treatment originally designed for the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. EMDR is a treatment that is rapidly increasing in popularity amongst clinicians and has become one of three first line recommended treatments for PTSD according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. EMDR is unique in that it utilizes certain types of sensory stimulation, known as bilateral stimulation, to enhance our bodies own ability to heal. The theory behind this is that when we experience a trauma, the physical and emotional sensations that we experienced at the time of the trauma become locked within our nervous system. Because of this, the memory of the trauma remains closely connected to the physical and emotional sensations that were experienced at the time. Thus, the trauma does not get stored in our nervous system like an ordinary memory, but instead it is stored in its original format, with all the sights, sounds, feelings, and sensations that occurred at the time of the trauma. With the utilization of bilateral stimulation, we can help to disconnect those sensations from the memory and reduce PTSD symptoms.
The process of EMDR involves discussing certain aspects of the trauma, as well as your associated beliefs, feelings, and bodily sensations. While some find it scary to discuss their trauma, EMDR allows for a patient to not have to discuss as many specific details of the trauma compared to many other treatments. EMDR also has an added benefit of, sometimes, offering more immediate relief compared to other therapies. Bilateral stimulation is applied during the treatment process in one of many forms, including having a person follow a stimulus with their eyes, feeling someone alternating taps on the backs of their hands, or listening to auditory cues through headphones.