Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment method that is effective for resolving emotional difficulties caused by disturbing, difficult, or frightening life experiences. EMDR therapy has been used to help children and adults overcome traumatic events and other problems and symptoms.
EMDR therapy helps process the troubling thoughts, feelings, and memories so that individuals can return to their normal developmental tasks and prior levels of coping. EMDR therapy is being used with other problems such as attention deficits (AD/HD), anxiety, and depressive disorders.
When individuals are traumatized, have upsetting experiences, or even repeated failures, they lose a sense of control over their lives. This can result in symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, anger, guilt, and/or behavioral problems. We recognize that events such as accidents, abuse, violence, death, and natural disasters are traumatic but we do not always recognize the ways they affect and influence our everyday lives. Even common upsetting events such as divorce, work problems, peer difficulties, failures, and family problems can deeply affect an individual’s sense of security, self-esteem, and development.
Most experts agree that one way to get “unstuck” and free from the symptoms is through exposure to the traumatic experience. This means to face the memories or troubling events until they are no longer disturbing. EMDR therapy combines elements of several well-established clinical theoretical orientations (e.g., psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, client-centered) together with “dual-attention stimuli” in a unique and novel way to dissipate the upset associated with the experience.
Dual-attention stimuli refers to the use of alternating, right-left tracking that may take the form of eye movements, tones or music delivered to each ear, or tactile stimulation, such as alternating hand taps. Creative alternatives have been also developed for children that incorporate the dual-attention stimuli, using puppets, stories, dance, and art. (Guess we therapists could have picked an easier term like “back and forth” therapy, huh?)