EMDR - What is it? How does EMDR work?

EMDR - WHAT IS IT?  What is EMDR? How does EMDR work? What is EMDR 

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing, is a  powerful new psychotherapy showing much success in helping people suffering from Trauma / Post Traumatic Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Panic, Troubling Memories and many other emotional disturbances.  EMDR Therapy has also been shown to be very effective in Enhancing Sport, Artistic and Creative Performances as well as helping those suffering from Chronic Pain.  EMDR has been scientifically proven to create effective, lasting results in much less time than traditional talk psychotherapy alone.

Watch this 2003 Los Angeles Channel 2 News Segment showing how EMDR Therapy was used to treat an Iraqi war veteran  suffering from PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The video segment shows how this soldier, who seemed  fine after returning from completing his tours of duty in the Gulf War in Iraq, suddenly began experiencing PTSD after being triggered by a local disaster he witnessed in Santa Monica, California.  He underwent EMDR treatment to help him resolve traumas that stemmed all the way back to his childhood, the war and the current incident that finally triggered the emotional flooding.  After 6 EMDR Therapy sessions, he was able to regain close to full functioning levels.          

HOW DOES EMDR WORK? What is EMDR? How does EMDR work? EMDR Therapy

EMDR uses BI-LATERAL STIMULATION such as left-right eye (visual) movements, tactile (touch) or auditory (sound) stimulation, repeatedly activating opposite sides of the brain while the client focuses on the disturbing images, thoughts and feelings, effectively "unlocking" these experiences that seem "trapped" in the nervous system and allowing the brain to fully and rapidly process them out.  In the EMDR world, this is known as "Adaptive Information Processing".  That is, with EMDR's mechanism, all aspects of a disturbing memory / issue are able to be fully, properly, adaptively "digested / processed out / made sense of", not just on a cognitive level but on an emotional as well as body / nervous system level - full body-mind integration.  During EMDR Therapy sessions,clients often feel they are having epiphanies / making connections / having realizations that they could not get to on their own or through just traditional talk therapy.  

As a result of successful EMDR processing, the past truly does now become "the past", a neutralized  memory, effectively clearing out the negative emotional, mental and physiological triggers associated with it.  The brain is able to retain what is healthy and let go what does not serve a person's balanced mental health.  With successful EMDR treatment, the client is able to experience, in real time, the body as well as the mind fully releasing and discharging the disturbance, freeing up physical blockages, reconnecting itself, leaving the client feeling more calm, centered and in control.  

Window to An EMDR Session   This Video walks you through what an EMDR Therapy session might look like.  A client is shown  with an EMDR Therapist working on a current distressing issue,  rapidly processing out an old unresolved experience where the trigger had originated.  EMDR Sessions can be quite intense as your brain and body actively reprocess old information / beliefs / experiences that have been previously stored in a dysfunctional,  unresolved state in your brain, resulting in the client   creating new meaning /  developing a sense of choice / of seeing possibilities, rather than feeling and reacting in a stuck, conflicted or dysfunctional manner.  


EMDR has been shown to be TWICE as effective in HALF the amount of time of standard traditional psychotherapy treatments alone. Traditional psychotherapy is often considered difficult and time-consuming.  EMDR Therapy, however, is considered a remarkable revolutionary psychotherapy because of its simplicity and the fact that it brings rapid and lasting relief from most types of emotional disturbances.  With EMDR, processing even the most disturbing memories can be achieved in a fraction of the time it would have taken with traditional talk psychotherapy.

Changes with EMDR are LONG LASTING.  Scientific studies have also shown that with EMDR Therapy,although not all clients will have dramatic responses in as short a period of time, the end results will be equally effective and long lasting.


EMDR Therapy shows a high degree of effectiveness with the following conditions:

Abuse   *  Anxiety  *  Assaults * Athletic Injuries * Bad Temper * Car Accidents  *  Childhood Abuse  *  Childhood Trauma  *  Chronic Pain  *  Creativity Blocks  *  Depression  *  Fears  *  Fire  *  Grief  *  Illness  *  Injury  *  injury of a Loved One  *  Intrusive Negative Thoughts  *  Loss of a Loved One  *  Low Self Confidence  *  Low Self Esteem  *  Natural Disasters  *  Overwhelming Fears  *  Obsessions  *  Panic Attacks  *  Phobias  *  Performance Problems *  Robbery  *  Sexual Abuse  *  Shyness  *  Sport Performance Problems  *  Stage Fright  *  Stress  *  Surgery Traumas  *  Trouble Sleeping / Insomnia  *  Victims of Violent Crimes / Violence  *  Work Accident  *  Worrying or Brooding  *  Writer's Block

EMDR Therapy is most effective when used in conjunction with other traditional methods of psychotherapy in treating these and many other emotional disturbances.


YES, EMDR psychotherapy has been shown to be effective with infants, children, teens, adults as well as couples.


EMDR Therapy 
is the most thoroughly researched psychotherapy method known for the treatment of PTSD and Trauma.  One recent EMDR study involving individuals suffering from trauma due to rape, military combat, loss of a loved one, natural disasters and devastating accidents, showed that     85-90% achieved significant relief from their emotional distress after only three EMDR psychotherapy sessions.

EMDR's effects appear to be long lasting with very low relapse rate.

EMDR is so effective, it is recognized and supported by the following International List of Mental Health Departments and Associations as an empirically validated psychotherapy treatment for physical and psychological trauma. 

  • American Psychiatric Association (APA) (2004)
  • U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs and the Department of Defense (2004)
  • International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (2000)
  • United Kingdom Department of Health (2001)
  • Israeli National Council for Mental Health (2002)
  • Northern Ireland Department of Health - Clinical Resource Efficiency Support Team (CREST) (2003) 
  • Dutch National Steering Committee Guidelines Mental Health Care (2003) 
  • Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Healthcare (2003)
  • French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (2004)

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Emotional Healing at Warp Speed - The Power of EMDR
by David Grand, LCSW