What is EMDR?

Considered one of the most powerful cutting edge therapies, EMDR is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy and a recommended treatment of choice in the NICE guidelines (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) and WHO (World Health Organization) particularly for trauma and PTSD, but there is plenty of empirical evidence in clinical settings showing its success in clearing other problems. EMDR has the potential to get to the root of your difficulties and help eradicate them from your body and mind in a way that prevents them from returning ever again. While it’s been demonstrated to effectively clear the effects of trauma and post-traumatic stress, it can also be used for other issues and chronic patterns of behaviors. Where the symptoms such as anxiety, depression, stress and panic arise, you may also find yourself either avoiding or overcompensating for things in your life.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. It can also be used to enhance performance and desensitize distorted beliefs about oneself.

Allowing the Mind to Heal

Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

Proven Results

More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.

How it Works

EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.

Why do it?

With a pulse, we will be bound to have anxiety and eustress. Life may become overwhelming. With the latest brain imaging technology, studies now show that overwhelming experiences like trauma, and the recalling of those experiences, occur in the right hemisphere of the brain and to the exclusion of the left hemisphere. Regular “talking therapy”, without EMDR uses language to process memories. Given that the left hemisphere becomes inactive when a traumatic memory is recalled, it is understandable that verbal therapies have not been able to resolve many issues. Part of what EMDR does is to provide a non-verbal body focus, which seems to stimulate inter-hemispheric activity.


The effects of EMDR treatment don’t just stop immediately once session is over. EMDR generates a certain amount of ‘momentum’ to your thinking, emotions, and conscious awareness. EMDR starts showing you the relationship that you have with your experiences in a new way. At times, it activates a Theta brainwave. It is highly recommended that the body perform some type of movement or anchoring after your session to clear out what was just activated. Consult with your certified EMDR practitioner to find the plan that works for you. Erin refers to it as returning home to yourself. You finally discover who you are by coming into you. This can be a very liberating experience. Imagine doing a yoga class before or after your session.