What is EMDR therapy?


Quick Answer

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, as a nontraditional type of psychotherapy especially used for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, according to WebMD. EMDR uses the rapid, rhythmic eye movements of a patient to lessen the impact of the emotions felt from past events.

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What is EMDR therapy?
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Full Answer

An EMDR treatment session can last up to 90 minutes, states WebMD. During these sessions, a therapist moves fingers back and forth in front of the patient’s face and requests that the patient follow the hand with his eyes. The therapist has the patient recall an emotionally charged event and describe the emotions and sensations he feels. The patient is then directed to think about pleasant thoughts and to rate the current level of distress.

Psychology experts believe that recalling the event and then rerouting the patient’s emotional response to it helps a patient have more control over upsetting thoughts, which reduces the anxiety attached to them, notes WebMD. While EMDR often treats post-traumatic stress disorder, it also treats addictions, panic attacks, anxiety and eating disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association feels that EMDR is useful, but more research is needed to determine how long improvements last. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Defense strongly recommend EMDR for military personnel and civilians.

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