Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro that emphasizes the role of distressing memories in some mental health disorders, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is an evidence-based therapy used to help with the symptoms of PTSD. It is thought that when a traumatic or distressing experience occurs, it may overwhelm normal coping mechanisms. The memory and associated stimuli are inadequately processed and stored in an isolated memory network.
EMDR therapy is as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in chronic PTSD.
The goal of EMDR is to reduce the long-lasting effects of distressing memories by engaging the brain’s natural adaptive information processing mechanisms, thereby relieving present symptoms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements. EMDR was originally developed to treat adults with PTSD; however, it is also used to treat trauma and PTSD in children and adolescents.