EMDR is one of only two treatments recommended as first line treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Extensive research has demonstrated it's effectiveness as a treatment for PTSD - and recent research has also supported using the approach to treat other anxiety driven issues as generalised anxiety and social anxiety.
EMDR involves the client bringing into awareness thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with traumatic memories whilst moving their eyes rapidly. The therapist guides the client through sets of about 30 – 60 seconds where the client follows the movements of the therapists fingers with their eyes. This produces a naturally occurring pattern of electrical activity in the brain, which causes the stored trauma memory to change – typically becoming less intense. The exact mechanisms in the brain which cause the memory to change have not yet been discovered, but the regions of the brain involved with sensory storage, emotional activation and reasoning all become more active, with changed patterns of nerve cell firing.
Although the use of EMDR is widespread, not all clients are suitable. Some clients need additional assistance in developing skills for managing and reducing emotional arousal before any EMDR is undertaken. Your therapist will conduct an assessment with you to determine your appropriateness for EMDR and make recommendations for how to proceed if EMDR is not deemed suitable.
EMDR is endorsed by many international bodies including:
Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
National Health and Medical Research Council
American Psychiatric Association
US Department of Veterans Affairs
Israel National Council for Mental Health
Clinical Division of the American Psychological Association (1998)