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Understanding EMDR: A Path to Healing

July 2, 2024
Ellen Johnson

In the realm of mental health treatments, therapies like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) have gained significant attention for their effectiveness in treating trauma and various psychological conditions. Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, EMDR has evolved into a widely recognized method endorsed by mental health professionals worldwide.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a structured therapy approach designed to help individuals process distressing memories and reduce their lingering effects. It integrates elements of various therapeutic approaches (including cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, mindfulness, body-centered and experiential therapies), into a comprehensive method that facilitates healing by targeting the way traumatic memories are stored in the brain.

How Does EMDR Work?

At the core of EMDR therapy is the concept that traumatic experiences can overwhelm the brain's natural coping mechanisms, leading to the persistence of distressing symptoms such as anxiety, flashbacks, and emotional instability. EMDR helps individuals reprocess these memories by stimulating the brain's innate ability to heal through bilateral stimulation, which can involve side-to-side eye movements, taps, or sounds.

The process involves several phases:

  1. History Taking and Treatment Planning: The therapist gathers information about the client's history and identifies specific memories or issues to target during treatment.
  2. Preparation: The therapist works with the client to develop coping strategies and ensure they feel safe and prepared to begin processing memories.
  3. Assessment: The client focuses on a specific traumatic memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, following the therapist's guidance.
  4. Reprocessing: As the client processes the memory, disturbing emotions and sensations associated with it begin to diminish, replaced by more adaptive beliefs and feelings.
  5. Evaluation: The therapist and client assess progress, identifying any remaining areas of concern and continuing the EMDR process as needed.

How Can EMDR Help?

EMDR therapy has demonstrated effectiveness in treating a range of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, and phobias. By targeting the root of distressing symptoms—the unprocessed memories of traumatic events—EMDR allows individuals to experience significant relief and improvement in their overall well-being.

According to EMDRIA, research supports the efficacy of EMDR in helping clients achieve symptom reduction and enhance their quality of life. The organization emphasizes that EMDR is not only about relieving symptoms but also about fostering personal growth and resilience.


In conclusion, EMDR therapy represents a transformative approach to mental health treatment, offering hope and healing to individuals struggling with the aftermath of trauma and other challenging experiences. As highlighted by EMDRIA, this methodological therapy is grounded in rigorous research and continues to evolve as a leading practice in the field of psychotherapy.

Whether you or someone you know is grappling with the impact of trauma, anxiety, or other psychological issues, EMDR therapy stands as a beacon of therapeutic innovation, guiding individuals toward recovery and emotional resilience.

For more detailed information on EMDR therapy and its applications, visit the EMDRIA website

Remember, seeking help is a courageous step toward healing, and therapies like EMDR offer valuable pathways to reclaiming a sense of peace and empowerment in life.

Several of our clinicians have EMDR training, so if interested please reach out, here.

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