Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: A Conceptual Framework

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: A Conceptual Framework

Article excerpt

Byline: Sukanya. Menon, C. Jayan

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a method which was initially used for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. But it is now being used in different therapeutic situations. EMDR is an eight-phase treatment method. History taking, client preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure and reevaluation of treatment effect are the eight phases of this treatment which are briefly described. A case report is also depicted which indicates the efficacy of EMDR. The areas where EMDR is used and the possible ways through which it is working are also described.


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment procedure which is widely accepted and used in clinical settings. Shapiro has developed this procedure as an effective technique for alleviating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But now it is used in a wide variety of situations like phobias, [sup][1] test anxiety, [sup][2] dermatological disorders [sup][3] and pain management. [sup][4]

What is EMDR therapy?

Shapiro constructed this therapy in a very structured way and she has explained different phases for EMDR, which helps the therapists to move through this therapy in a very systematic manner. Different phases of the therapy [sup][5] are explained below.

The first phase of EMDR is the client history and treatment planning. A detailed history helps the clinician to identify the client's readiness and identify any secondary gains that maintain his/her current problem. By analyzing the dysfunctional behaviors, symptoms and specific characteristics, the clinician decides the suitable target for treatment. The targets which were focused to be the basis for client's pathology are prioritized for sequential processing.

The second phase is called preparation in which the therapist and client make a therapeutic relationship. Therapist helps to set a reasonable level of expectations. He/she trains the person certain self-control techniques to close the incomplete sessions and to maintain stability between and during the sessions. The therapist instructs the client to use the metaphors and stop signals to provide a sense of control during the treatment session. The therapist explains about the client's symptomatology and also makes the person understand the active processing of the trauma.

Assessment is the third phase in which the client and the therapist jointly identify the target memory for the particular session. The patient is then instructed to recognize the most salient image associated with this memory and he/she will be helped to elicit negative beliefs associated with it which provide an insight about the irrationality of the particular event. Positive beliefs suited to the target are also introduced which contradict with his/her emotional experiences.

The validity of cognition scale (VOC) and subjective units of disturbance scale (SUDS) are assessed to understand the appropriateness of positive cognition (how much he/she considers a particular statement is true for the target memory) and how distressing is the stored memory, respectively. Both these assessments are used as baseline measures. In the assessment phase, emotions and physical sensations associated with traumatic memory are also noted down.

In the fourth desensitization phase, the client's disturbing event is evaluated to change the trauma-related sensory experiences and associations. Increasing the sense of self-efficacy and elicitation of insight is also a part of this phase. In this phase, the client is asked to attend both the target image and eye movement simultaneously and is instructed to have openness to whatever happens. After each set of eye movements, the client is directed to take a deep breath and instructed to blank out the material to which he/she is focusing. Depending upon the client's response, the clinician directs his/her subsequent focus of attention and also directs the length, speed and type of stimulation used. …

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