EMDR is a way to rapidly process emotions and thoughts to bring about changes in how we understand ourselves and the meaning of events. EMDR utilizes sounds, visual images, or touch that alternately stimulate each side of the body to transform how we understand troubling thoughts and emotions and change.
Francine Shapiro developed EMDR to treat trauma in Vietnam veterans. EMDR is now used to help resolve emotional distress arising from overwhelming life experiences such as physical, emotional and sexual trauma, combat, automobile and industrial accidents, and natural disasters. It is also used to help with depression, various types of anxiety, and pain management. This widely researched methodology is now considered a "best practice" by the Veterans Administration and many professional organizations and insurers.
When working with traumatic events, the person receiving EMDR comes to understand that the event is in the past, realizes appropriately who or what was responsible for the event occurring, and feels more certain about present-day safety and the capacity to make good choices.
For example, many adults with PTSD from childhood trauma have the thought that the trauma is their fault along with strong negative emotions of guilt and shame, as well as behaviors like avoidance (e.g. intimate relations). Through EMDR, the positive reprocessing may be as simple as coming to the understanding that the abuse couldn't have been the child's fault. In many cases, there are multiple traumas or thoughts/emotions that must be processed, requiring a series of sessions that go through the succession of events that have led to the depression or anxiety.
EMDR is also used to to help resolve or lower the effects of anxiety, phobias, depression, and other challenges. For example, EMDR may be used to help a client with a fear of public or crowded spaces rehearse going into the space and desensitize the anxiety or panic.
The EMDR process helps each client develop positive internal resources. The negative constraints of dysfunctional thoughts and emotions change to a range of positive resources allowing flexible thought and action.
EMDR is rarely provided alone; it is part of a package of therapies, each tailored for the client, to promote recovery and a state of wholeness.
The EMDR International Asssociation provides excellent information about EMDR and the actual session process at: http://www.emdria.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=2