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Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

Video on EMDR:

EMDR: Assists clients in identifying and reprocessing memories that are the basis of current problems. The EMDR process strengthens access to adaptive memory networks to optimize client’s ability to respond appropriately to current and future life demands. It assists in eliminating dysfunctional memory networks, reducing vulnerability to respond inappropriately to challenging situations. It optimizes client’s capacity to respond spontaneously and authentically to memories. It can be utilized to achieve the most effective and efficient treatment effects while maintaining client stability and safety. The goal is to bring contentment, satisfaction, and well-being into the client’s life.



EMDR is a therapy technique that facilitates healing from symptoms resulting from disturbing experiences. It is based on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model: The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health, unless the system is “blocked”. EMDR helps remove the blocks by reprocessing information in a more adaptive manner. The process involves utilizing bilateral stimulation to assist in the desensitization and reprocessing phases of therapy.


 EMDR addresses the physiological storage of memory and how it informs experience through change. Change is understood as a byproduct of reprocessing due to the alternation of memory storage and the linkage to adaptive memory networks.

One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people. EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.


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; for example, “I did the best I could.” 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.


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 therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary. EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.


 Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post-traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies. Research has also shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment. For further references, a bibliography of research may be found through EMDR International Association's web site,


Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post-traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions: * personality disorders * eating disorders * panic attacks * performance anxiety * complicated grief * stress reduction

*All information provided is compiled from the EMDR International Association website*.

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