Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing model posits that EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories. EMDR can also assist with other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution. After completing EMDR therapy, the goal is to have the individual move beyond the traumatic events, without replaying the event and continuing the same behaviors.
During EMDR therapy, therapist directed lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus but a variety of other stimuli are incorporated, including hand-tapping and audio stimulation. By utilizing other stimuli, the idea is for the client to develop new ongoing behavioral habits.
EMDR therapy uses a three pronged protocol:
- The past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction are processed, forging new associative links with adaptive information;
- The current circumstances that elicit distress are targeted, and internal and external triggers are desensitized;
- Imaginal templates of future events are incorporated to assist the client in acquiring the skills needed for adaptive functioning.