EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. There is so much fascinating brain science behind EMDR, but in session it is actually a simple and straight forward process. Nothing to be nervous about at all (and no- I'm not going to shock or hypnotize you- I've been asked that before)!
Like most approaches to therapy, it focuses on symptoms that you are currently experiencing (anxiety, depression, negative self talk, etc.), however EMDR considers your past experiences and how they are being activated by present events or future experiences you may be anticipating.
I have found EMDR to be very powerful with the clients I have worked with, especially with those that would rather not talk about the details of their experiences. With EMDR, we focus on the emotions rather than the narrative. We will talk more about what to expect and how it works in session, but I encourage everyone to do some research on their own as well and come in with any questions you may have.
Here's a great summary of what EMDR looks like in session provided by the institute where I received my clinical training:
"What is different about EMDR?
EMDR’s focus is on the brain’s ability to constantly learn, taking past experiences and updating them with the present situation.
This is referred to as “The Adaptive Information Processing Hypothesis.”
Adaptive learning is constantly updating memory network systems (reconsolidation).
EMDR’s focus is the person’s inability to update experiences.
EMDR therapy uses a set of procedures to organize these negative and positive networks and then uses bilateral stimulation, i.e., eye movements, alternative tapping, etc. as the catalyst to effectively integrate the past experiences with the present adaptive learning. Much like eating, we digest food, keeping the nutrients necessary of health, letting go of the waste, we keep what is necessary for adaptive learning. And let go of unnecessary information.
What does EMDR look like in treatment?
Overall Treatment Planning
Clients come to treatment expressing concerns.
The clinician will help the client understand the dynamics of the present concerns and how to adaptively manage them.
An overall treatment plan will be developed that will accomplish the client goals.
Within that treatment plan, EMDR therapy, along with other therapy approaches, will be used to accomplish treatment goals.
The client will be instructed, through a set of questions, to access and activate the negative experience and the desired adaptive resolution.
Sets of rapid eye movement (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) will be applied.
The client is encouraged to just “free associate” and allow the brain to work through the experience.
Sets of eye movements will be alternated with brief client reports of what is being experienced.
EMDR processing will continue until the past experience has been updated to an adaptive present perspective.
With long standing issues, this process may take multiple sessions.
Once the disturbing experiences have been processed, the client and clinician work together to integrate these new insights and perspectives into their daily life."