Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment strategy that has been shown in countless controlled studies world wide to significantly improve many symptoms of PTSD, particularly flashbacks and the associated anxiety/stress/shame responses that come with them.
Francine Shapiro, a psychologist in the US, is credited as first discovering randomly when out walking that when she moved her eyes rapidly back and forth while focused on some disturbing thoughts her anxiety lifted. Intrigued she tried it out on some of her clients who also reported improvement.
EMDR has come a long way and now considered by many as one of the gold standard treatments for single event traumas but also now is used to help clients who experience phobias, anxiety, depression and in some cases complex trauma.
While we dont know exactly how EMDR works it thought to somehow possibly replicate the process of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage when memories are thought to be laid down.
However, EMDR is not for everyone. The process requires that the client is able to hold the trauma memory in their mind for a significant period of time while also tracking the therapists finger as it occilates from side to side.
Many people will not be able to hold a trauma event in their mind without becoming extremely distressed. In this case a slower more gentler approach to trauma treatment should be considered with the possibility of even working up to be able to manage distress levels to do EMDR at a later date.
The most important thing with EMDR is that the 'work up' is as important as the proceedure. Many clients have been unnecessarily retraumatised because the proceedure was rushed or seen as a cure all. It is not on any level a 'cure all' and no replacement for long term trauma therapy but rather a valuable strategy to aid in some of the distressing symptoms of trauma.
Clients who experience DID or other significant dissociative symptoms are not generally considered to not be suitable candidates for EMDR.