EMDR is a powerful new therapy which has helped an estimated half million individuals to experience relief from many types of psychological distress. It seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain functions. When a person experiences a traumatic event it often becomes crystallized or "frozen" in time. Subsequently the memory of the trauma may feel as emotionally intense as the actual event. Such memories have profound effects on people's views of the world, their sense of safety, and their perceptions of themselves and others. In short, people's lives become disrupted.
During an EMDR session therapist and client identify a specific memory to work with. Everything about the memory is called to mind including the negative beliefs about one's self that remain present. The therapist provides a monitor-like screen with a focal point on which the client focuses. As this point moves back and forth across the screen the client follows with his or her eyes. This process seems to provide bilateral stimulation of the brain allowing for the memory to be re-processed. The client is totally awake and alert during this process and notices whatever comes to mind without trying to control it. This experience may be analogous to watching a movie of the event. As the session progresses the disturbing aspects of the memory diminish and positive beliefs about oneself strengthen. For example, by the end of a session the sentiment expressed might be "that event, awful as it was, no longer has an influence on how I view myself". In short, a great reduction in disturbance is usually reported at the end of a session.
Usually an EMDR session lasts about 90 minutes and is used in conjunction with psychotherapy. Although a single session is sometimes sufficient, more complex and severe issues usually require a longer term approach. EMDR has been shown to be helpful with post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, disturbing memories, phobias, performance anxiety, stress reduction, and sexual/physical/emotional abuse.