EMDR stands for the less than succinct phrase Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.
Although the phrase is a bit of a mouthful EMDR does do what it says on the tin – once you manage to decipher just what the words on the tin mean that is!
The D of EMDR is for Desensitisation
The Desensitisation part means that using EMDR we become less triggered, less sensitive to whatever is bothering us be that reliving bad events, feeling the urges that come with an addiction or how our chronic pain feels.
The R of EMDR is for Reprocessing
The Reprocessing part is about allowing the mind to re-process events, memories or associations in a way it hasn’t had the opportunity to do before. We sometimes use the phrase “I haven’t managed processed that yet” or “I never did have the chance to process what happened”. EMDR enables us to do that processing with a safe, controlled way.
The curious thing is we don’t need to be able to consciously remember the events that led to our current feelings. Sometimes they are there in front of our eyes, other times we are only left with the feelings they created. And in the case where there is no obvious event to focus on we just focus on the feelings, we don't need to know where they came from.
These feelings give us a way in to the memory networks where the processing needs to take place.
And the EM of EMDR is for Eye Movements
The eye movements is the way we do the Desensitisation and Reprocessing. In simple terms it involves:
- The client focusing on specific feelings, images or thoughts related to the problem they have come for help with
- The therapist moving their fingers backwards and forwards from left to right in front of the client
- The client moving their eyes to keep track of the therapist's fingers
- These eye movements, done at the right speed and for the right number of repetitions whilst the client focuses on those feelings, is what stimulates the Reprocessing and Desensitisation.