EMDR Therapy

What is EMDR?

Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987; it initially was used as a way to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it has been found to be an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health problems. Research has found that the mind has a tendency to heal itself naturally, in the same way as the body does. Much of this natural coping mechanism occurs during sleep, particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

What happens when you experience a trauma?

Most of the time, your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something out of the ordinary occurs and you are traumatized by an overwhelming event (e.g. a car accident) or by being repeatedly subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect or abuse), your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining frozen in your brain or being “unprocessed”. These traumatic memories can be triggered when you experience events similar to the difficult life events from your past. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are triggered in the present. EMDR helps to connect traumatic memory networks to more adaptive memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a healthier way.

What is an EMDR session like?

You and your therapist will target a certain disturbing memory. Eye movements similar to those during REM sleep will be recreated simply by asking you to watch a light moving backward and forward across your visual field. After a short time you will be asked to report back on what you noticed during the set of eye movements. Things noticed may include changes in thoughts, images and feelings. With repeated sets of movements, the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also heal at the same time. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvement in many aspects of your life. Positive effects have often been seen after just one session of EMDR.

What can EMDR be used for?

In addition to its use for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR has been successfully used to treat anxiety and panic attacks, grief and loss, depression, phobias, performance anxiety, and sleep problems.

What will the experience be like for me?

During EMDR treatment, you will remain in control, fully alert and awake. This is not a form of hypnosis and you can stop the process at any time. Reprocessing is usually experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt to arise quite naturally from within. As a result, most people experience EMDR as being a natural and very empowering therapy.

What evidence is there that EMDR is a successful treatment?

EMDR is an innovative clinical treatment which has successfully helped over a million individuals. The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, The Department of Defense, and The Veteran’s Administration all recognize EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD. For further information about EMDR, visit www.emdria.org or www.emdr.com.


Success Rate with PTSD

EMDR Resources

EMDR International Association

EMDR Therapy: Everything You Need to Know

EMDR Institute Inc.