Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing
In the words of its founder Francine Shapiro it's about 'getting past your past'. It's about processing unprocessed traumas from past life experiences. EMDR has helped many people to be freed from the negative aspects of big T and small T traumas so that they can go about their lives without being held back.
EMDR's effectiveness has gained worldwide recognition, both from the World Health Organisation and the NHS and as the recommended treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The EMDRIA website will answer many of your questions.
In addition to the website info I've included some additional notes taken from an article titled "Great Therapy Shame About The Name" written by Ania Tylunas BSc (Hons) a therapist based in the UK.
The main curiosity about this therapy is how exactly does it work? Well, in order to answer the question, we need to talk about how our brains process experiences first. In simple terms, our logical, rational, time-and-space-anchored and verbal brain occupies the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is where emotions and raw sensations 'live'. The brain works really hard to analyse and process our ongoing experiences so that we can make sense of the world and keep going as safely as possible. In the process the left and right hemisphere 'talk to each other', laying down neural pathways. This process is called Adaptive Information Processing
However, sometimes we experience events so painful, traumatic or terrifying that we find it difficult to 'get over' them. You might find that you still get emotionally triggered by something in your own life when you are reminded of it.
In the course of EMDR therapy, metaphorically speaking, the left and right hemisphere are enabled to 'talk' and new neural pathways are formed. The 'grown up' and 'rational' left hemisphere helps the 'traumatised' right hemisphere notice that the danger (or trauma or hurt etc) is in fact over. Processing of information that had got 'stuck' is resumed and we emerge with a new, more adaptive understanding of the world and ourselves in it. This is called reprocessing.
There are a few choices involved in helping the brain reprocess what had got stuck. Rather, the two hemispheres are stimulated by a variety of simple methods. These include eye movement (hence the name), tapping on hands or knees, using hand-held pulsars and sound (through headphones). We can discuss what will work best for you in the first session.
EMDR can produce quite rapid results, with many clients reporting having resolved an issue they struggled with for a long time within a few reprocessing sessions. At the same time it is not a shortcut or just a technique. After a period of thorough assessment, history taking and preparation, we will then determine if this therapy will be of help to you. Not all clients who have experienced trauma are suited to this type of therapy. For example if you have very little stability in your life or when you are in the middle of a crisis.
Time is needed initially for me to get to know you, and to help you gather important information about yourself and the events in your life that have helped to shape you today.. This will aid your shared understanding of how things came about. It is important that I attend to your safety and make sure that we have created ways of managing strong emotions well and that EMDR is used at the right time for you. Safety involves attending to ways you normally cope with difficult feelings and, if these tend to be self-destructive. It may require you learning new, more helpful ways of coping. All of this will take time and it varies from person to person.
Once successfully reprocessed, when the memory is activated, it no longer produces an out-of-proportion emotional response. In other words you would have become desensitized to the memory and it is no longer distressing. On top of it, you would have also developed a new and better understanding of the experience and yourself in it.