The core of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) treatment involves activating components of the traumatic memory or disturbing life event and pairing those components with alternating bilateral or dual attention stimulation. This process appears to facilitate the resumption of normal and adaptive information processing and integration in the brain. This treatment approach can result in the alleviation of presenting symptoms, lessening of distress from the memory, improved view of the self, relief from bodily disturbance, and resolution of present and future anticipated triggers. EMDR has become invaluable for psychotherapists of all major orientations, including psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, cognitive/behavioral, and experiential/gestalt. It is a psychotherapy approach which is readily integrated into one’s clinical practice and can be learned in a modest period of time. Read a brief overview of the treatment provided by the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program.
Research and International Accreditation for EMDR
Research in over 20 randomized controlled studies has been conducted on EMDR in the treatment of trauma, as well as hundreds of published case studies evaluating a range of presenting complaints, including depression, anxiety, phobias, excessive grief, somatic conditions and addictions. The American Psychiatric Association (2004) designated EMDR as an effective treatment for trauma. The US Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have placed EMDR in the ‘A’ category as “strongly recommended” for the treatment of trauma. The World Health Organization has recently released guidelines on conditions related to stress recommending EMDR for children, adolescents and adults with PTSD. “Like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a trauma focus, EMDR therapy aims to reduce subjective distress and strengthen adaptive cognitions related to the traumatic event. Unlike CBT, with a trauma focus, EMDR does not involve (a) detailed descriptions of the event, (b) direct challenging of the beliefs, (c) extended exposure, nor (d) homework.”
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (2008) practice guidelines ranked EMDR as an evidence-based Level A treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults. Internationally, EMDR has received recommendations for the treatment of trauma by the mental health departments of Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Israel and more.