Traumatic events can be difficult to come to terms with. People who have survived trauma including combat, domestic violence, sexual abuse or have witnessed a life-threatening event may develop post traumatic stress disorder. These people often relive the experience through flashbacks and nightmares. The symptoms do not go away on their own and may even get worse over time.

For some people, the events are so traumatic that it still haunts them after a few years. If you’re struggling with painful memories from a past trauma, you might want to give EMDR a try.

What is EMDR?

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a psychotherapy treatment that was that was developed by Francine Shapiro. This form of treatment was designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. Patients who have suffered from nightmares, distressing memories or anxiety can benefit from EMDR.

EMDR is a rather new way of treating mental health disorders, but many therapists swear by the technique. In addition, the Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Defense, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the American Psychiatric Association all recommend EMDR.

During the session, the patient will be asked by the therapist to recall the memory in detail while rapidly moving her eyes back and forth. The patient is told to let her mind go blank and notice whatever sensations might come to mind. The therapist might use a tapping or waving of a wand or move his fingers from side to side while doing so.  The goal is to desensitize the client to the distressing memory and to help the person develop more adaptive coping mechanisms.

Researchers from Cambridge, MA conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of EMDR on patients who are suffering from PTSD. In this study, half of the participants were asked to undergo EMDR; while the others were treated with Prozac. Six months after EMDR therapy, patients who have undergone EMDR have reported lesser symptoms as compared to those who were treated with Prozac.