Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, commonly known as EMDR, is a therapeutic approach that was originally developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It’s primarily used to help individuals who have experienced traumatic events. EMDR has gained widespread recognition and acceptance as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions related to distressing life experiences. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs/Dept. of Defense, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and the World Health Organization among many other national and international organizations recognize EMDR therapy as an effective treatment.

Learn about how EMDR therapy works, what it is like, and how widely it is recognized. EMDR therapists discuss how EMDR therapy works and the feedback they receive from clients. This video from 2019 lists membership numbers and titles at the time of publication.

EMDR Mindfulness Matters Therapy image

Following treatment planning, resource development and preparation phases, the process begins by identifying specific memories related to the traumatic event. Clients are asked to bring to mind distressing images, negative thoughts, and bodily sensations associated with the trauma. Unlike traditional talk therapy, EMDR incorporates bilateral stimulation, which can take the form of guided eye movements, auditory tones, or tactile stimulation. This bilateral stimulation is believed to facilitate the processing of traumatic memories. EMDR aims to redirect the client’s attention away from the emotional distress associated with traumatic memories towards more adaptive and positive information. This dual attention is thought to help the brain reprocess the memories in a way that reduces their emotional charge. As the therapy progresses, individuals often report a decrease in the intensity of negative emotions and a shift toward more positive and constructive beliefs about themselves. Through repeated sets of bilateral stimulation, EMDR helps individuals replace negative beliefs about themselves that originated from the traumatic experience with more positive and adaptive beliefs. Each EMDR session concludes with a reevaluation of the individual’s emotional state. If necessary, the therapist assists the client in finding a sense of closure before ending the session.

EMDR has been found effective not only for PTSD but also for a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and various trauma-related disorders. While the exact mechanisms of how EMDR works are not fully understood, many therapists and clients attest to its efficacy in promoting healing and reducing the emotional impact of traumatic experiences.

Jill Harmon is an EMDR Certified Therapist, as well as an EMDR Certified Intensive Child Specialist.  EMDR sessions can either be in-person or via Telehealth.