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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

What is EMDR?


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is an integrated model of psychotherapy that has been effective in helping people who suffer from trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, posttraumatic stress and many other emotional concerns.

EMDR, an information processing therapy, is an eight-phase approach to addressing the experiential contributors to a wide range of concerns. It addresses past and present trauma as well as current concerns, beliefs and sensations, and can help individuals discover the positive steps needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors.

After EMDR processing, clients generally report that the emotional distress related to the memory has been eliminated, or greatly decreased, and that they have gained important cognitive insights.

How Does It Work?

EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation—either right/left eye movement, auditory or tactile stimulation—as part of a specific eight-stage comprehensive treatment protocol.

“When someone experiences a severe psychological trauma, it appears that an imbalance may occur in the nervous system, caused perhaps by changes in neurotransmitters, adrenaline, and so forth. Due to this imbalance, the information-processing system is unable to function optimally and the information acquired at the time of the event, including images, sounds, affect, and physical sensations, is maintained neurologically in its disturbing state…” (Shapiro, F., Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures, p. 31).

“Therefore, in EMDR when we ask the client to bring up a memory of the trauma, we may be establishing a link between consciousness and the site where the information is stored in the brain. In the context of the other procedural elements, the dual stimulation appears to activate the information-processing system and allows processing to take place” (Shapiro, F., p. 31).


What concerns can be helped by EMDR?

The studies to date show a high degree of effectiveness with the following concerns:

  • loss or injury of a loved one

  • depression

  • car accident

  • anxiety

  • work-place trauma

  • phobias

  • assault

  • childhood trauma

  • physical abuse

  • rape

  • sexual abuse

  • natural disaster

  • posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • personal injury

  • anger

  • illness

  • panic attacks

  • witness of violence

  • fears

  • childhood abuse

  • relationship issues

  • victims of violent crimes

  • trouble sleeping

  • performance and test anxiety

  • trauma

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