Treatments & Therapies

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – Treatment, Effects & Risks

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing ( EMDR ) is a treatment method for trauma patients . The effectiveness of this method has now been proven. Over 80 percent of the treated patients feel significantly better after the treatment.

Was ist Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing?

The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing treatment method was developed by the American psychotherapist Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. During a walk, she found that by moving her eyes back and forth , she was able to free herself from depressive thoughts and fears about her cancer .

Based on this experience, she developed the method for desensitization through eye movement and reprocessing of traumatic events. Translated into German, “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” means eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Since this method brought equally good results, it was also introduced in Germany in 1991. In 2006, the scientific advisory board for psychotherapy finally recognized the method as scientifically justified.

The core element of EMDR is the use of bilateral stimulation to process traumatic memories. The patient follows the therapist’s fingers with their eyes. The therapist moves his hands back and forth. This movement is intended to support the brain in activating its self-healing powers .

Function, effect & goals

EMDR is based on the knowledge that every person has their own ability to process information to process traumatic experiences, which they can activate with this method. The core element of the therapy is the eye movement, which is also known as bilateral stimulation.

The patients follow the therapist’s fingers with their eyes. The therapist moves his hands back and forth. It is assumed that the eye movements are comparable to the phase of REM sleep. In this REM phase of sleep , past events are processed by the brain. The same also applies to EMDR. A detailed history of the trauma must be taken prior to treatment. The basis for the treatment is the recognition of the speechless horror. The trauma is characterized by the fact that the brain is the language centerregarding the trauma turns off. The person becomes speechless and can no longer process the experience verbally. However, as part of EMDR, the speech center is also reactivated so that the patient can better process what has been experienced. The mode of action of the therapy could be proven without a doubt.

However, it has not yet been clarified to what extent eye movements really have an influence on the activation of certain brain regions. Attempts are currently being made to expand the range of applications for EMDR. The aim is to answer the question to what extent the treatment can be made more effective in the case of anxiety disorders and depression . Here, too, there are promising results. Investigations are also being carried out into whether alcoholics or pedophiles can also benefit from EMDR.

Quality control was introduced in the USA as early as 1995 to further promote the method. To carry out these quality controls, the organization EMDRIA was founded in the USA and in 1998 in Europe the European specialist society EMDR-Europe.

These two specialist societies ensure a high standard of quality through certification. The treatment of trauma disorders by EMDR has also been recognized internationally. For example, EMDR was recommended by the Aftercare, Victim and Family Support (NOAH) after the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. Today, a large number of mental illnesses can be treated with EMDR. In addition to post-traumatic stress disorders ( PTSD ), these also include the effects of stressful life experiences, severe grief after loss experiences, attachment traumatization, developmental and behavioral disorders in children, psychosomatic exhaustion syndrome , depression, anxiety and panic attacks as well as chronic onespain .

Risks, side effects & dangers

Very good results are achieved with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. So far, however, it has not been possible to clarify the basis on which these great successes are based. Scientific studies should clarify which elements of the method are absolutely necessary for its success.

A research project is being carried out at the University of Munich, which is intended to further explore the mechanism of the treatment method. It has already been established that the fixation of the eyes on the hands has a significant influence on the reduction of symptoms. In a control group without explicit fixation of the eyes on the hands, the symptoms did not decrease as much. However, in this study, the movement of the hands and the accompanying movement of the eyes had no influence on the result. Bringing attention to the hands was critical to its success.

In these studies, the influence of eye movements could not be clearly demonstrated. On the other hand, it was proven that attention must be generated in order to process the stressful experiences. All studies conducted so far have been able to prove that the use of EMDR brings improvements in the symptoms of trauma patients. However, the studies could not prove without a doubt whether this is due to the basic assumption of eye movements pursued up to now. Since the studies were able to confirm some of the assumptions made, such as exposure to looking at the hand, it was scientifically recognized.

Since the specific eye movements believed to be the core of the method are unlikely to have that great an impact after all, EMDS has sometimes been dismissed as pseudoscience. Nevertheless, EMDS was able to retain its rank as a scientific method because the confrontational component, where the patient is directly confronted with the traumatizing stimuli, causes the actual effect of this method.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.