Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR for short) is an established psychotherapeutic method developed in the USA by the American literary scholar and psychologist Francine Shapiro, which has its origin in trauma therapy. EMDR is based on the fact that every human being has a natural ability to process information, through which they can process stressful experiences.
The central element of EMDR therapy is guided eye movements - also known as bilateral stimulation: The patient follows the therapist's fingers with his or her eyes, while the therapist moves his or her hand alternately to the right and left. The client's eye movements are comparable to the eye movements in the phase of sleep in which the events of the day are processed. As an alternative to the hand movements, the therapist can also use acoustic or tactile stimuli.
EMDR treatment is carried out in several phases. The first step is a detailed diagnosis of the trauma and the stressful symptoms associated with it. In doing so, it is important that patients feel comfortable in a safe atmosphere and reiceve a lot of empathy. Only then can those affected confront themselves with the images and situations that are connected with the traumatising experience and process the stressful emotions together with the therapist.
Then, as a precaution, a positive experience, such as a safe inner place, is determined in order to be able to get out of a trauma experience during treatment and "flee" to this positive experience. In phase 3, the most stressful situation within the trauma experience is then selected in conjunction with a negative thought (e.g. "I am helpless"). Then a positive goal idea (e.g. "I can do something to help myself") is formulated. This way, the straining feelings are identified and assessed.
The actual treatment then follows. The patient puts themselves back into the traumatic situation mentally and emotionally and follows the therapist's hand movements with their head held still, using only the eyes. The processing in the brain that then happens tend to result in feelings of relief. Once the stress has disappeared, the positive thoughts and physical feelings are anchored at the end of the session.
In the last phase a testing of possibly changed body experiences follows; all negative feelings to the remembered situation should be experienced less drastically. Patients learn step by step how to deal with old traumatic memories and thoughts and can develop a new, more appropriate perspective on what is happening.