What Are the Benefits of Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy?

The main benefit of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, is that it enables patients to recover from traumatic experiences in a much shorter amount of time than talk therapy requires, according to the EMDR Institute, Inc. The therapy can also be more empowering to patients than talk therapy because their healing results not from a therapist's interpretation of their situations but from their own emotional and intellectual cognitive processes, which the therapy simply helps accelerate.

EMDR consists of eight treatment phases, notes the EMDR International Association. First comes the history and treatment-planning phase, in which the therapist gathers a history on the client and identifies the targets of the therapy for the patient. These targets involve the past occurrences that created the trauma, current circumstances that cause the patient distress, and future behaviors the patient should develop to help him reach and maintain a state of well-being. The second phase is the preparation phase, during which the therapist explains the EMDR process and teaches the patient relaxation techniques for dealing with emotional disturbances during the treatment. During the third phase, the patient identifies negative thoughts he has related to his trauma and alternative positive thoughts he wishes he had instead.

During the fourth phase, the therapist guides the patient through a series of eye movements while addressing each of the treatment targets until the patient's disturbance levels associated with those targets decrease to acceptable levels, states the EMDR International Association. Subsequent steps focus on reinforcing and assessing the effectiveness of the patient's newly acquired positive thoughts to replace the old negative ones. The final phase is a reevaluation phase that the therapist uses to monitor the patient's progress over time.