Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

open eyes

What is EMDR?

There are not many professional “psychotherapy” techniques listed in TWP’s Cope and Heal section, because not many people have reported having success with alleviating psychiatric drug withdrawal symptoms through psychotherapeutic methods. However, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is one exception. While it doesn’t work for everyone, in the psychiatric drug withdrawal community, some people report that EMDR has been helpful in easing distress, discomfort, and the trauma related to withdrawal itself.

It’s a type of therapy that was originated by chance, when a psychologist noticed that moving her eyes rapidly from side to side eye seemed to reduce the intensity of her distressing thoughts. Practitioners of EMDR theorize that this method—most often undertaken by people who’ve experienced acute trauma—may help by repeatedly activating both sides of the brain in a way that helps “release” emotional experiences that have become “trapped”. So an EMDR session often involves focusing on a traumatic memory while experiencing “bilateral stimulation”—for example, tracking something with a left-right eye movement, tapping or clicking with (alternately) the left and right hand, or listening to a tone that moves from one ear to the other. It may not be necessary to describe the traumatic memory in detail during the session.

Where can I find more information?

  • One resource for learning more about EMDR or for searching for a nearby practitioner is the EMDR International Association.
  • Though EMDR is formally considered to be a clinical intervention performed by a paid, trained professional, there are some books available that offer information on self-help EMDR techniques (e.g. try a web search for “self-help techniques” and “EMDR”).
  • YouTube also has “self-administered EMDR” guided videos.