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Understanding EMDR: A Guide for Interested Clients

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a distinctive and interactive psychotherapy technique used to relieve psychological stress. It is particularly effective for those who have experienced trauma. 

Developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, EMDR has garnered recognition for its ability to help individuals process and heal from traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences. 

If you're considering EMDR or simply curious about how it works, this guide will walk you through the benefits and the process, helping you make an informed decision.

What is EMDR?

EMDR therapy is grounded in the premise that our minds can heal from psychological trauma as our bodies recover 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 our mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health unless blockages or imbalances hinder healing. EMDR helps remove these blockages, allowing the brain to resume its natural healing process.

The Benefits of EMDR

EMDR therapy has been extensively researched and proven effective for treating trauma and PTSD. Beyond these areas, it has also shown benefits for individuals dealing with:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Phobias
  • Sleep problems
  • Complicated grief
  • Addictions
  • Pain relief
  • Self-esteem issues

EMDR is noted for the speed with which it can bring results, often making it faster than traditional forms of therapy. Its benefits include:

  • Rapid processing of traumatic memories
  • Decreased emotional distress from disturbing memories
  • Improved view of the self
  • Reduction in physical and emotional reactions to memories
  • Enhanced ability to live in the present without being overwhelmed by past traumas

The Process of EMDR

EMDR therapy involves eight phases, focusing on past memories, present disturbance, and future actions. The goal is to process fully the experiences that are causing problems and to include new ones that are needed for full health.

  1. History and Treatment Planning: Your therapist will review your history and decide where to start the treatment.
  2. Preparation: Your therapist will explain the treatment in detail and establish trust and a sense of safety.
  3. Assessment: You will identify a specific memory to target and explore the image, belief, and body sensations associated with it.
  4. Desensitization: This involves focusing on the memory while engaging in EMDR processing using bilateral stimulation, typically eye movements.
  5. Installation: The positive belief you and your therapist have identified is strengthened.
  6. Body Scan: You'll think about the target memory and identify any residual bodily tension. The goal is to allow your body to fully process the distressing memory.
  7. Closure: Ensures you leave the session feeling better than when you entered. If the targeted memory was not fully processed, the therapist will help you use self-calming techniques.
  8. Reevaluation: At the beginning of subsequent sessions, your therapist checks on your progress and decides on the next steps.

Is EMDR Right for You?

EMDR therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It's most effective for those who have experienced trauma or those who feel stuck in their healing process. 

If you're struggling with the aftermath of traumatic experiences or find that traditional talk therapy has not been effective, EMDR might offer a promising alternative.


EMDR therapy offers a beacon of hope for many who have felt burdened by their past. By actively engaging the brain's natural healing processes, it can provide rapid relief from emotional distress and facilitate a move toward wholeness and well-being. 

If you're considering EMDR, it's important to seek out a qualified therapist trained in this specialized technique. With the right support, EMDR can be a powerful tool in your healing journey, unlocking a path to a more peaceful and empowered life.