Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) represents 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.
The core element of EMDR is the use of bilateral stimulation to post-process traumatic memories. The patient follows the therapist's fingers with his eyes. The therapist moves his hands back and forth.
The treatment method Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was developed by the American psychotherapist Dr. Francine Shapiro developed in the late eighties. During a walk, she found that she could get rid of depressive thoughts and fears about her cancer by moving her eyes back and forth.
Building on this experience, she developed the method of desensitization through eye movement and reprocessing 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 post-process traumatic memories. The patient follows the therapist's fingers with his eyes. The therapist moves his hands back and forth. This movement is intended to support the brain in activating its self-healing powers.
EMDR is based on the knowledge that every person has their own information processing skills to process traumatic experiences, which they can activate with this method. The core element of the therapy is eye movement, which is also referred to 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 applies to the EMDR. A detailed history of the trauma must be taken prior to treatment. The basis for the treatment is the knowledge of speechless horror. The trauma is characterized by the fact that the brain switches off the language center in relation to the trauma. People become speechless and can no longer process what they have experienced verbally. As part of the EMDR, however, the language center is also reactivated so that the patient can process the experience better. The effectiveness of the therapy could be proven beyond doubt.
However, it has not yet been clarified to what extent the eye movements really have an influence on the activation of certain brain regions. Attempts are currently being made to expand the EMDR's range of applications. The aim is to answer the question to what extent the treatment can also be made more effective in the case of anxiety disorders and depression.There are also promising results on this. Research is also being conducted to determine whether alcoholics or pedophiles can benefit from EMDR as well.
Quality control was introduced in the USA as early as 1995 to further promote the method. To carry out these quality controls, the EMDRIA organization was founded in the USA and the European specialist association EMDR-Europe in 1998.
These two specialist societies ensure a high quality standard through certification. The treatment of trauma disorders by EMDR has also been recognized internationally. EMDR was recommended by the Aftercare, Victims and Relatives Aid (NOAH) after the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. Today, a wide variety of mental illnesses can be treated with EMDR. In addition to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this also includes the effects of stressful life experiences, severe grief after loss experiences, attachment traumatization, developmental and behavioral disorders in children, psychosomatic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety and panic attacks and chronic pain.
Very good results are achieved with the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. So far, however, it has not yet been possible to clarify on what basis these great successes are based. Scientific studies should clarify which elements of the method are necessary for its success.
A research project is being carried out at the University of Munich, which aims 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 movement of the eyes had no influence on the result. The key to its success was drawing attention to the hands.
In these studies, the influence of eye movements could not yet be clearly demonstrated. On the other hand, however, it was proven that attention must be drawn in order to process the stressful experiences. All studies carried out 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 beyond doubt whether this is due to the basic assumption of eye movements that has been followed up to now. Since the studies were able to confirm some of the assumptions made, such as exposure by looking at the hand, it was scientifically recognized.
Since the specific eye movements, which are considered to be the core of the method, probably not have that great influence after all, EMDS has occasionally been dismissed as a pseudoscience. However, EMDS was able to maintain its rank as a scientific method because the exposure component, where the patient is confronted directly with the traumatizing stimuli, produces the actual effect of this method.