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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)


Jun 1, 2023

Reviewed by:

Ben Pearson, LCSW

"EMDR therapy has emerged as a valuable treatment modality for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related conditions." - American Psychological Association (APA)


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an evidence-based psychotherapy approach that helps individuals process and resolve distressing memories and traumatic experiences. It involves bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, sounds, or taps, to facilitate the integration of traumatic memories and promote healing.


How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR works by stimulating the brain in ways that lead it to process unprocessed or unhealed memories, leading to a natural restoration and adaptive resolution, decreased emotional charge (desensitization, or the “D” of EMDR), and linkage to positive memory networks (reprocessing, or the “R” of EMDR).

What Happens During EMDR

  1. Assessment: The therapist assesses the client's history, current symptoms, and identifies the specific targets for EMDR treatment.

  2. Preparation: The therapist helps the client develop coping skills and relaxation techniques to ensure emotional stability during EMDR sessions.

  3. Desensitization: The client focuses on the traumatic memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, which may involve following the therapist's finger movements, listening to alternating sounds, or feeling taps.

  4. Reprocessing: This stage involves the client's spontaneous processing of the traumatic memory, allowing for new associations, insights, and perspectives to emerge.

  5. Installation: Positive beliefs and emotions are reinforced to replace negative thoughts associated with the traumatic experience.

  6. Closure: Each session concludes with a review of progress and the client is taught self-calming techniques to ensure emotional stability until the next session.

  7. Reevaluation: The effectiveness of the treatment is periodically assessed to ensure long-term benefits.



Physical Benefits

  • Reduced physiological arousal and tension

  • Improved sleep patterns

  • Enhanced relaxation response

  • Reduced somatic symptoms associated with trauma