Eye Movement Desensitization
and Reprocessing

What is EMDR?

EMDR helps transform anger, post-traumatic stress disorder, relationship problems, social phobias, low self-confidence, traumas and hurts

EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. EMDR helps transform anger, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, relationship problems, social phobias, low self-confidence, traumas and hurts.

EMDR has been found to help people recover from trauma. It is unusual because with something as simple as eye movements or tapping and accompanying free-association, it can achieve in relatively few sessions what other therapies can take years to achieve, if at all. Furthermore, brain scans and research have revealed that EMDR stimulates positive change in the brain.

In order to understand EMDR, one needs to have an idea of how trauma can affect the brain. With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the brain fails to successfully process the trauma which gets stuck in the central nervous system. The body is unable to recognise that the person is now safe. Instead it reacts as though danger is current, and this throws the person out of balance on many levels, including emotional and physical.

EMDR is effective as it facilitates the processing of information that has become 'stuck' in the central nervous system. Brain scans have actually captured information transferring from one side of a brain to another as a person experiences an EMDR session. The same cannot be said for other forms of counselling.

This is a really important point, because the mainstream approach used in some countries, relies on talk-based therapies or drugs with PTSD. These may help for the duration they are given, but soon after they are withdrawn, the brain might loop back into the trauma and the whole cycle might start over again. This can literally lead a person to lose hope, especially since the general attitude will be that adequate help has already been given.

In order for real resolution to take place, an effective processing such as EMDR is often helpful.



EMDR has many applications yet the most documented is trauma. Other areas which have found some success are anxiety, disturbing memories, stress reduction, grief, physical or sexual abuse, stage fright, public speaking, phobias, and pain in general. Given the worldwide recognition of EMDR as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how this therapy 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.


EMDR can work for some issues, such as a specific anxiety or phobia, in just one session. More often it takes place over a series of sessions. Initial sessions enable the therapist to gather information about a client, the problem and its origins. For some this may last two sessions.

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.
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 therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

For the actual EMDR, the client holds the issue or event in mind while watching the movement of the physician’s fingers. There may also be other forms of stimuli.

As the eyes track the movement, they follow the same course they would take during REM sleep - the very cycle thought to enable the brain's natural processing of the day. With this first issue chosen, the client is asked to identify the negative belief that they formed about themselves in this event. Typical beliefs are 'I wasn't strong enough', or 'I don't deserve…' etc. Then, distress is measured on a scale. The client is asked to identify any physical disturbances. This is done with purpose as the brain tends to relate memories to body parts.
A typical EMDR session will track many memories and feelings and go for about an hour and a half. It will follow one or more issues. At the end of each session, the previously mentioned positive and negative beliefs are again measured on the scale.
EMDR follow some phase system to enable the client to link the sessions with an increased degree of safety. This is not to be underestimated


EMDR may not work for everybody. For some it works to a degree, for others it works totally. The effectiveness for trauma cases (PTSD) could be around 95%, for which APA (American Psychological Association) considers EMDR the treatment of choice for these types of problems.


Yes. More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. 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 therapy 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.

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