EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (massively unhelpful name, most of the time). The theory is connected to REM sleep. Essentially the eyes move back and forth in a certain way in REM sleep, and it’s known that REM sleep helps process memories and all parts of the brain are active. EMDR mimics that—While the person thinks of a particular memory or sensation, each side of the brain is stimulated in quick succession, either through sight (movement back and forth that is followed with eyes), sound (headphones that beep on each side in succession), touch (buzzers that pulse in succession), or a combination of the above. The medium changes based on what the individual finds most effective or the information in a particular piece of memory.
It can be intense, and that is what the therapist is there for. EMDR can sometimes act as a bit of a blunt instrument, but a good EMDR therapist will give ample time to you process what’s coming up. During the session, you have control over what goes on—if you don’t feel you’re ready to keep going and still need to verbally process what is coming up, you should be able to say so and it will be respected. The other bonus to EMDR is you don’t need to verbalize what feeling or memory you’re having, so if you can’t say what happened out loud, then you can just let the therapist know that you have something in mind. That’s something that I definitely took advantage of a few times because I couldn’t describe a feeling or didn’t want to repeat a memory that I was considering because it was too painful to say.
I hope the session goes well.