Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

What is EMDR?


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy views problems and issues as unprocessed memories that impact your current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. EMDR helps your brain to process the memories in an adaptive manner. 

History of EMDR


Often the mind can heal itself naturally in the same manner as the body. This natural coping mechanism usually occurs mostly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro observed that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts under certain conditions. Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically and developed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to treat victims of trauma. 

How does EMDR work?


When a person is very upset, their brain does not process information as it normally would. When a disturbing event occurs, the moment can become locked into the brain and recalling a trauma may feel as unpleasant as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings have not changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person views the world and the way they interact with other people.  

EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. EMDR stimulates the information to allow the brain to reprocess the memory so a person no longer re-experiences the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is recalled. The person still remembers what happened, however it is less upsetting. EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM sleep. EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see unsettling material in a new and less upsetting way. During EMDR treatment, it is your brain that will be doing the healing and therefore you are the one in control. 


What kind of problems can EMDR treat?

In addition to its use for the treatment of post-traumatic stress, EMDR has been successfully used to treat: 

  • Anxiety
  • Complicated Grief
  • Depression
  • Disturbing memories
  • Panic Attacks
  • Phobias
  • Pain disorders
  • Physical abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Self Esteem
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sleep problems
  • Stress 


What is the actual EMDR session like?

During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about that event. The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self. During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance. 


How long does EMDR take?

One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method. Once the therapist and the client have reached a consensus that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin.
EMDR therapy involves an eight-phase treatment approach. A typical EMDR session last from 90 to 120 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many sessions are necessary. 

Top 10 reasons to try EMDR

1) Improve Overall Health

EMDR can alleviate PTSD related stress. Research shows a significant link between reducing stress and your physical health.

2) Resolve Issues at any Age

EMDR may be used effectively for adults, children, and youth.

3) Overcome Persistent Blocks

EMDR can relieve symptoms that talk and cognitive therapies cannot address as efficiently.

4) Relieve Chronic Symptoms

EMDR therapy can be cost effective as it can address the root cause of chronic symptoms.

5) Think and Feel Better

EMDR can neutralize negative thoughts and feelings, and strengthen positive ones.

6) Reduce Physical Symptoms

EMDR can calm flashbacks and other disruptive physiological (body) reactivity.

7) Increase Achievement

EMDR can be helpful in removing blocks to peak performance at work or at home

8) Break Free from Old Patterns

EMDR can enhance your quality of life by unblocking negativity from the past distorting your present and future.

9) Build Resiliency

EMDR can increase your ability to tolerate negative experiences and help you recover more quickly when they do occur.

10) Reclaim Personal Power

EMDR is supported by your body’s natural healing process and allows your mind to define the meaning of your experience.

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