What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is a very powerful form of psychotherapy. 

Since its inception in the 1980s, it has been a widely used treatment to relieve psychological turmoil and has helped 2 MILLION PLUS people of all ages around the world. Over 100,000 clinicians are trained in it and practice it worldwide. It is one of the most empirically valid and successful treatments for people who suffer from PTSD, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, PHOBIAS, PANIC ATTACK, TRAUMA, GRIEF & OTHER INTENSE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS. Given that these conditions are very difficult and time-consuming to treat, EMDR is considered a breakthrough therapy because of its simplicity and the fact that it can bring quick and lasting relief. It has been widely researched as effective for PTSD and trauma with up to 100% effectiveness for single trauma and 77% for those with multiple trauma.


When people are experiencing these conditions the only thing they seek is relief from extreme pain and peace with their past, and EMDR brings that possibility to fruition almost immediately than most traditional forms of talk therapy. 

What conditions does EMDR treat?

EMDR was developed as a treatment for traumatic memories and research has demonstrated its effectiveness in the treatment of PTSD.  Those suffering from major traumas such as sexual or physical assault, combat experiences, accidents, or the sudden death of a loved one can be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if certain symptoms exist. These include intrusive thoughts of the event; nightmares or flashbacks; avoidance of reminders of the incident and increased arousal, which can include problems such as sleep difficulties; angry outbursts; being easily startled or having difficulty concentrating. 


Research has also indicated that medically unexplained physical symptoms, including fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and pain can also go along with this disorder. Anyone suffering from PTSD can benefit from EMDR therapy.



However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in the treatment of the following conditions:

  • Sexual, Physical and/or Verbal abuse

  • Eating Disorders

  • Addictions

  • Complicated grief

  • Disturbing memories

  • Phobias

  • Pain disorders

  • Performance anxiety

  • Stress reduction

  • Panic attacks

  • Body dysmorphic disorders

  • Personality Disorders

  • Dissociative disorders

What are the advantages of EMDR therapy?

 Research studies show that EMDR is very effective in helping people process emotionally painful and traumatic experiences. When used in conjunction with other therapy modalities, EMDR helps move the client quickly from emotional distress to peaceful resolution of the issues or events involved. Studies consistently show that treatment with EMDR results in the elimination of the targeted emotion. The memory remains, but the negative response neutralizes. The short-term benefits of EMDR are simple and straightforward – the possible immediate relief of emotional distress and the elimination of the debilitating effect of unresolved past trauma.

Gradient Ocean

How does EMDR work?

When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen and or distorted on a neurological level. When a person recalls the distressing memory, they re-experience what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted or felt, and this can be quite intense. Sometimes the memories are so distressing, the person tries to avoid thinking about the distressing event to avoid experiencing the distressing feelings.


Some find that the distressing memories come to mind when something reminds them of the distressing event, or sometimes the memories just seem to just pop into mind. The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system.

In the process the distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories are less distressing and seem more like 'ordinary' memories. The effect is believed to be similar to that which occurs naturally during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) when your eyes rapidly move from side to side. EMDR helps reduce the distress of all the different kinds of memories, whether it was what you saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt or thought


Frequently asked questions

How Many Session with the Therapist before he/she begins EDMR?

This depends upon the client's ability to "self-soothe" and use a variety of self-control techniques to decrease potential disturbance. The clinician should teach the client these techniques during the preparation phase. The amount of preparation needed will vary from client to client. In the majority of instances the active processing of memories should begin after one or two sessions.

How do I know EDMR will work for me? How do I know I am a candidate for EDMR?

EMDR therapy has been extensively researched as effective for problems based on earlier traumas. In addition, reports from clinicians over the past 25 years have indicated that EMDR can be extremely effective when there are experiential contributors that need to be addressed. Read the book Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Shapiro and see if any of your problems are covered in the cases. Interview your clinician to ask her what experience she has using EMDR with your particular problem.

Do I have to use eye movement? I wear contacts / have eye issues

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation, which can be achieved by : 1) Tactile - (holding pulsers which can help in your hands or put under both your knees) 2) Auditory - (wearing headphones, listening to binural beats or sounds) 3) Visual - (moving eyes with the help of therapists hands or light on pulsers)

Is EDMR a one session cure?

No. When Shapiro (1989a) first introduced EMDR into the professional literature, she included the following caveat: “It must be emphasized that the EMDR procedure, as presented here, serves to desensitize the anxiety related to traumatic memories, not to eliminate all PTSD-symptomology and complications, nor to provide coping strategies to victims” (p 221). In this first study, the focus was on one memory, with effects measured by changes in the Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) scale. The literature consistently reports similar effects for EMDR with SUD measures of in-session anxiety. Since that time, EMDR has evolved into an integrative approach that addresses the full clinical picture.

How many sessions will it take?

The number of sessions depends upon the specific problem and client history. However, repeated controlled studies have shown that a single trauma can be processed within 3 sessions in 80-90% of the participants. While every disturbing event need not be processed, the amount of therapy will depend upon the complexity of the history. In a controlled study, 80% of multiple civilian trauma victims no longer had PTSD after approximately 6 hours of treatment. A study of combat veterans reported that after 12 sessions 77% no longer had post-traumatic stress disorder.

Is EDMR the same as Hypnosis?

No. There are a few distinctive differences between hypnosis and EMDR, which we would like to briefly highlight. First, one of the major uses of hypnosis among clinical practitioners is to deliberately begin by inducing in the patient an altered state of mental relaxation. In contrast, when beginning EMDR mental relaxation is not typically attempted. In fact, deliberate attempts are often actually made to connect with an anxious (i.e. an emotionally disturbing as opposed to relaxed) mental state. Second, therapists often use hypnosis to help a patient develop a single, highly focused state of aroused receptivity (Spiegel & Spiegel, 1978). In contrast, with EMDR attempts are made to maintain a duality of focus on both positive and negative currently held self-referencing beliefs, as well as the emotional arousal brought about by imaging the worst part of a disturbing memory. However, in this sense, EMDR does have a similarity to Spiegel's (Spiegel & Spiegel, 1978) split-screen cognitive restructuring technique. Third, one of the proposed effects of hypnotizing a person is that they will have a decrease in their generalized reality orientation (GRO: Shor, 1979). This induced decrease in a person's GRO is often utilized in order to promote an increase in fantasy and imagination, perhaps by capitalizing on an increase in trance logic (Orne, 1977). In contrast, in EMDR attempts are made towards repeatedly grounding the patient by referencing current feelings and body sensations to prevent the patient from drifting away from reality. Specific encouragement/inducement is made towards rejecting previously irrational/self-blaming beliefs in favor of a newly, reframed positive belief with an increase in subjective conviction about that belief. Shapiro and Forrest (1997) and Nicosia (1995) have also noted additional differences between hypnosis and EMDR.


If stressful, negative experiences hit us when we are vulnerable, and we don’t receive the support and safety we need, the emotional and negative beliefs about ourselves can become “stuck” in our brains and debilitates our being when certain triggers happen as we go through life. At the time of the trigger we experience the same distress, pain, and sensations that we felt at the time the incident/experience happened. EMDR is very good at getting us “unstuck.” As the infographic above shows how our brain stores the distress before EMDR and how the information gets reorganized after EMDR to help us come up to date with who we are today and want to be as supposed to being stuck in the past. EMDR helps “unlock” the prison, allowing our brain to return to a healthy state. Figuratively speaking, you are then free to move, stretch your wings, and fly.

White Feather
More Information on EMDR


For an extensive list of empirically valid and reputable research towards the efficacy of EMDR: