What Are Some Cautions to Consider When Using EMDR on Psychiatric Patients?


Quick Answer

EMDR practitioners should know that patients may experience a short-term increase in distress, cautions the EMDR Institute, Inc. Other memories could emerge during treatment and the patient could experience physical sensations. The EMDR could also trigger intense emotions. After treatment, a patient might experience dreams, feelings and memories related to processing traumatic events.

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EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a psychotherapy technique primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, but also used on patients with anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and additions, explains WebMD. Practitioners believe that EMDR reduces the effects of the negative emotions associated with traumatic events.

During an EMDR treatment, a therapist moves his fingers in front of the patient's face and encourages the patient to follow the movement with her eyes, according to WebMD. The therapist then asks the patient to recall the traumatic event that troubles her, while following the finger movement. The patient remembers the body movements and emotions that occurred during that traumatic event, along with the actual sequence of events. The therapist then encourages the patient to shift her thoughts to happier memories. These sessions can last 90 minutes.

The American Psychiatric Association, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense all recommend EMDR to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, notes WebMD. Some studies indicate that EMDR is as effective as other psychological techniques to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. However, therapists do not know exactly why EMDR helps patients process traumatic memories.

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