Many people come to therapy because of past traumas or disturbing events that have a lasting impact on their life. The goal of EMDR, which is used by more than 100,000 clinicians worldwide, is to help them heal and get over the things that haunt them. It’s based on the theory that traumatic events aren’t properly processed in the brain when they occur, so they continue to affect us long after they’re over. The idea is that by reprocessing the memory, the mind can stop reacting to it as though it’s occurring in the present.

Unlike some other forms of psychotherapy, EMDR is a very short-term treatment, with most people attending between eight and 12 weekly sessions. This makes it easier for people with limited time or budgets to get the help they need.

The first session usually involves the therapist gathering information and explaining how EMDR Therapy works. The therapist will also help the person prepare for possible distressing images, thoughts and feelings that may emerge during or between sessions. The therapist will usually recommend keeping a journal or notes to help them remember the negative thoughts and feelings so that they can discuss them in the next session.

During the desensitization phase, the therapist asks the client to focus on the memory while engaging in eye movements or another form of bilateral stimulation (such as tapping). Then, they ask the person to report what new thoughts appear. This process continues until the client reports that the memory is no longer distressing. Then, the therapist will engage in installation, which involves strengthening the preferred positive cognition.

While it’s not clear exactly how EMDR works, one theory is that the eye movements and the dual task of focusing on both the memory and the bilateral stimulation helps reduce the vividness of the memory and lessen its power over the person. Another is that EMDR changes the way a memory is stored in the brain, allowing it to move out of the working memory and into long-term storage, where it becomes less distressing.

There is still a lot of research that needs to be done to understand the full effects of EMDR, and the best way to make sure it’s effective is to find a certified specialist. Ms. Miller says that people with PTSD, anxiety and other mental health conditions like depression, eating disorders or phobias can all benefit from the technique. However, the evidence for other conditions isn’t as strong, so it’s important to find a therapist trained in EMDR who can work with your specific condition.

While no therapy shows results overnight, EMDR is very fast and can be used for a variety of conditions. It’s also a good option for people who can’t attend long-term therapy, and the results are typically permanent. Those who are able to commit to the eight to 12 sessions usually see the most success. The therapy is available in several languages and has been recognized by organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization, as an effective treatment for trauma and other psychological conditions.