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Following is a brief description of EMDR from the EMDR Institute website.

For more information as well as answers to many questions about EMDR please follow this link:

EMDR is an acronym for a psychotherapeutic technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

EMDR is an innovative clinical treatment that has successfully helped over a million individuals who have survived trauma, including sexual abuse, domestic violence, combat, crime, and those suffering from a number of other complaints including depressions, addictions, phobias and a variety of self-esteem issues.

EMDR  integrates elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. These include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies in combination with eye movements or other forms of alternating bi-lateral stimulation in ways that stimulate the brain’s information processing system. By activating the information-processing system of the brain, people can achieve their therapeutic goals at a rapid rate, with recognizable changes that don’t disappear over time.  EMDR is the most effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as shown by extensive scientific research studies. (See Resources page for links and more info)

Dr. Francine Shapiro is the creator of EMDR. She is a licensed psychologist and a senior research fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto. She is the Executive Director of the EMDR Institute, which trains clinicians in the EMDR method. She is the recipient of the 1994 Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award presented by the California Psychological Association.

There have been many controlled studies which support the efficacy of EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of trauma. 
Following is a link to some of these studies:

Fourteen controlled studies support the efficacy of EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of trauma. The most recent 5 studies with individuals suffering from events such as rape, combat, loss of a loved one, accidents, natural disasters, etc. have found that 84-90% no longer had post-traumatic stress disorder after only three treatment sessions. A recent study financed by Kaiser Permanente revealed that EMDR was twice as effective in half the amount of time compared to the standard traditional care. However, clients and clinicians should note that EMDR is not a race. While many people show dramatic responses in a short amount of time, there are also those who will progress more slowly and that the slower progression is not abnormal. Just as in any therapy, we all progress at the rate appropriate to the individual and the clinical situation.

The EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation, right/left eye movement, or tactile stimulation, or sound, which repeatly activates the opposite sides of the brain releasing emotional experiences that are “trapped” in the nervous system. This assists the neurophysiological system, the basis of the mind/body connection, to free itself of blockages and reconnect itself.
Most importantly, it can eliminate stress surrounding the traumatic event, with the purpose of allowing new life in the once traumatized and emotionally difficult memory.

How Does It Work?

The therapist works gently with the client and asks him/her to revisit the traumatic moment or incident, recalling feelings surrounding the experience, as well as any negative thoughts, feelings and memories. The therapist then utilizes an ABS method (eye movements, auditory or tactile) as the memory or belief is focused on. As images arise during the therapy session, they are processed utilizing the ABS of choice resulting in painful feelings being exchanged for more peaceful, integrated and resolved feelings.

What are the Symptoms or Populations that can be helped by EMDR?  Since the initial medical study in 1989 positive therapeutic results with EMDR have been reported with the following symptoms and populations:

• Anxiety and feelings of panic

• Nightmares, Insomnia

• Depression

• Clients suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)

• Fear of being alone

• Feeling overwhelmed, unable to concentrate or focus

• Difficulty trusting others

• Unrealistic feelings of guilt and shame

• Persons exposed to excess loss (loss by death, divorce, loss of a house by fire)

• People who have witnessed or been a victim to a disaster (rape, accidents, earthquakes, fires, murder, gang related violence)

• Recurrent memories of a traumatic experience

• Suffers of phobias

• Chemically dependent clients

• Crime victims and police officers who were once overcome with violent memories

• Accident or burn victims

Video Credit: EMDR International Association.

Frequently Asked Questions


What can I expect with EMDR therapy, ie., what should/could happen?

Each case is unique, but there is a standard eight phase approach that each clinician should follow. This includes taking a complete history, preparing the client, identifying targets and their components, actively processing the past, present and future aspects, and on-going evaluation. The processing of a target includes the use of dual stimulation (eye movements, taps, tones) while the client concentrates on various aspects. After each set of movements the client briefly describes to the clinician what s/he experienced. At the end of each session, the client should use the techniques s/he has been taught by the clinician in order to leave the session feeling in control and empowered. At the end of EMDR therapy, previously disturbing memories and present situations should no longer be problematic, and new healthy responses should be the norm. A full description of multiple cases is available in the book Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Shapiro

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.

How do I know EMDR therapy would work for me/work for my anxiety/problems, etc.? Am I a candidate for EMDR therapy?

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 therapy 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 at least 3 clinicians to ask them what experience they have using EMDR with your particular problem.

Will I live the trauma as intensely as before?

Many people are conscious of only a shadow of the experience, while others feel it to a greater degree. Unlike some other therapies, EMDR therapy clients are not asked to relive the trauma intensely and for prolonged periods of time. In EMDR therapy, when there is a high level of intensity it only lasts for a few moments and then decreases rapidly. If it does not decrease rapidly on its own, the clinician has been trained in techniques to assist it to dissipate. The client has also been trained in techniques to immediately relieve the distress.