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EMDR: A Powerful & Proven Psychotherapy

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

It is an evidence-based treatment for children, teens, and adults. From premiere residential treatment centers to community mental health agencies to private practices around the world, over 100,000 trained EMDR therapists have helped millions of people reduce suffering and restore hope.

More than 30 positive controlled research studies support the benefits of EMDR for depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorders, and more. That’s why EMDR Therapy is endorsed by the World Health Organization, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, among others, for the treatment of PTSD and trauma.

EMDR Therapy offers a flexible and comprehensive approach to understanding and treating the root causes of symptoms. It doesn’t require lots of homework or recounting traumatic experiences in detail.

EMDR can reduce and even eliminate the disturbing thoughts and emotions, and physical sensations associated with difficult past experiences. After treatment, upsetting life events are remembered but now feel more neutral, distant, and “in the past.” They are much less likely to be triggered by reminders in daily life.

“Trauma-focused CBT and EMDR therapy are recommended for children, adolescents and adults with PTSD. Like CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR therapy aims to reduce subjective distress and strengthen adaptive cognitions related to the traumatic event. Unlike CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR does not involve (a) detailed descriptions of the event, (b) direct challenging of beliefs, (c) extended exposure, or (d) homework.”

– World Health Organization

How does EMDR therapy work?

Our brains are designed to process and integrate our life experiences. Sensory data, physical sensations, emotions and thoughts are synthesized from moment to moment. We “digest” experiences, learn from them, and hold onto what we need in the form of memories. Over time, most memories soften and become part of a large reservoir of life history that we can dip into when we choose. It’s a vast and rich network of connected memories that hold our stories, wisdom, and sense of self.

Unfortunately, some life experiences do not get fully processed and integrated with the rest. For example, overwhelming or scary events can activate the fight/flight/freeze response within our limbic system. When the brain’s amygdala and hippocampus are activated, memories get stored differently – they are held as fragments in isolated memory networks. The sensory data, emotions, and physical sensations associated with these memories remain quite intense and can be easily activated or “triggered” by reminders in the present. When we get triggered by old stuff, we can feel, think, and act in ways that feel bad and cause problems in daily life.

EMDR Therapy simply activates the brain’s natural, adaptive information processing system so that old experiences and problematic memories can finally be fully processed, synthesized, and stored in a healthy way.

When memories are reprocessed, the disturbing symptoms, emotions, and behaviors that were related to those past experiences fade away. As these trauma-based reactions are neutralized, EMDR clients find themselves naturally letting go of old, unhelpful patterns of reactivity and avoidance. Healthy new perspectives emerge and grow stronger. This evolution often feels spontaneous and organic to the client because they are now more deeply connected to their own highest wisdom and values.

Beyond Single Incident Trauma and PTSD

While research shows that just three, 90-minute sessions can eliminate PTSD symptoms for a single-incident trauma, many clients don’t report major traumatic experiences or symptoms that would meet diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their suffering is still real, and EMDR can help.

We now know that adverse life events, including early attachment injuries, developmental trauma, collective trauma, and cultural or identity-based oppression and marginalization often show up later as depression, anxiety, anger, health issues, relationship problems, substance abuse, or compulsive behaviors. EMDR is effective in identifying and treating a range of disturbing life events that lead to diverse client symptoms and presenting issues beyond PTSD.

  • Phobias
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Addictions and substance-use disorders and other compulsive behaviors
  • Somatic
  • Chronic pain
  • Post-operative pain
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Migraine
  • Cardiac, cancer, and MS patients
  • Generalized Anxiety disorder
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Disruptive Mood Disorder
  • Adjustment Disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Poor self-concept

The Eight Phases and Three Prongs of EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy is not just an “intervention. It’s a structured and comprehensive model that also allows great flexibility in creating personalized treatment plans for any number of possible presenting issues, treatment settings, and levels of complexity.

EMDR Therapists can provide anything from brief therapy to extensive treatment, with simple to complex cases (and everything in between.) EMDR Therapy’s Standard Protocol, with its eight phases and three prongs, serves as a foundation for practice and a flexible framework for treatment.


Client History and Treatment Planning

In this phase the client and clinician work together to understand root causes of presenting complaints. They identify the specific past experiences that will be targeted for memory reprocessing and create a treatment plan to methodically address past experiences, present triggers, and future goals. 



This phase includes informed consent, psychoeducation, problem-solving, and the development of self-regulation skills in preparation for memory reprocessing. Clients develop trust in the therapeutic process and the ability to stay within their window of emotional tolerance during and between sessions.



EMDR’s Assessment Phase consists of a brief series of questions designed to access and activate the troubling image, emotions, thoughts, and body sensations related to a memory so that they can be reprocessed and transformed. Phase 3 questions also provide baseline measurements so progress can be measured.



Here, memories are reprocessed using bilateral stimulation such as eye movements or tones to tax working memory and reduce arousal. Information is integrated into long-term semantic memory and clients can recall it without disturbance.



Installation strengthens the new, healthy, and adaptive perspectives that have emerged.


Body Scan

In Phase 6, we scan the body for any residual physical discomfort associated with the memory that is being reprocessed. Attention to the body allows us to resolve any disturbing components of the memory that could continue to cause physical symptoms.



The specific procedures used at the end of each session highlight therapeutic gains and increase client stability between appointments. The client and therapist work together to ensure that the client is feeling grounded and stable prior to leaving the session. They identify any positive changes or insights that have emerged and agree on a between-session plan. The client may be asked to keep a simple log of any triggers that occur so the therapist can re-evaluate progress during the next meeting.



EMDR Therapists begin each session with a re-evaluation that gauges client progress in relation to specific memories and general treatment goals. Re-evaluation ensures that therapy remains efficient, flexible and on-track.

Past, Present, and Future

EMDR’s comprehensive Standard Protocol delivers lasting results because it methodically addresses all three “prongs” of treatment: the past, present, and future.

In the Past Prong, previous life experiences that have set the foundation for current problems are identified and treated.

Next, the focus moves to any situations in present day life that trigger symptoms and unwanted or unhelpful responses.

Finally, treatment moves to the future, where adaptive new perspectives and solutions are applied to future situations. This focus on the future allows clients to remove any potential obstacles to achieving their goals. It boosts confidence and acts as “relapse prevention;” minimizing the risk of falling back into old habit loops when challenging situations arise.

Together, the eight phases and three prongs of EMDR Therapy help clients heal past wounds, eliminate current triggers, and prepare for future success.

Build better connections with your clients and register for a training or consultation.

Build better connections with your clients and register for a training or consultation.