EMDR is an acronym for Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a therapy technique often employed to help those suffering from symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a condition in which disturbing information associated with past trauma interferes with one’s normal functioning. It can be (and often is) a normal reaction to an abnormal amount of stress.
Making sense of a threatening event as it’s happening is key to determining what behaviors are necessary to escape it. Some experiences, however, are so overwhelming that we become immobilized. Without the ability to express them through action, the energy-packed “fight-or-flight” emotions provoked by the event are left confined within the body, only to be aroused (along with the associated images and physical sensations) when the person is “triggered”. Naturally, most PTSD sufferers try to suppress, numb or distract themselves from the “re-experiencing” of trauma, but this only hinders the natural processing of it, which is a requirement for the mind/body to recover and return to its normal baseline.
EMDR is based in the theory that our minds and bodies are constantly trying to move in the direction of wellness, healing and balance. The alternating stimulation of both sides of the body (originally done with the eyes moving back and forth) as the client recalls various facets of an event is believed to facilitate both the discharge of residual emotion as well as the re-processing of the event in a way that promotes healing. As the disturbing emotional charge is gradually removed from the memory, new, more adaptive associations and meanings can be discovered, eventually allowing the memory to become “filed away” peacefully.
Before participating in EMDR, your therapist will want to evaluate your current ability to tolerate disturbing emotions. He/she may want to discuss developing tools/techniques for managing the intensity of emotion that often occurs during the process, and to keep things moving in a healthy direction. As the patient, you should always remember that the general direction and pace of your therapy is ultimately up to you. It is your responsibility to communicate with your therapist about any needs related to treatment as they arise.