What Is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an integrative psychotherapy first developed over 25 years ago by Dr. Francine Shapiro. Dr. Shapiro discovered when bi-lateral eye stimulation is applied while thinking about a distressing memory it desensitizes and transforms the memory. The process causes a reduction or elimination of distressing symptoms while also creating more adaptive thoughts about the disturbing memory.

The bi-lateral eye movements are thought to simulate Rapid Eye Movement (REM) a natural function of the body that the human mind uses during sleep to help it process daily emotional experiences.

When the mind is overwhelmed by trauma or other extreme emotional experiences this process breaks down and does not bring the usual relief from stress. EMDR is thought to act like REM processing so that as the brain processes troubling images and feelings during the bi-lateral eye movements, relief and resolution of the issue is achieved more quickly.

EMDR is recognized worldwide as an effective treatment for trauma. It also is used very effectively to treat distressing memories that cause low self esteem, depression, anger and relational difficulties that most often bring clients into therapy. In addition, EMDR is used to enhance peak performance for executives, athletes, students and performers.

How It Works

Normally, individuals process disturbing experiences naturally due to the brain’s amazing information processing capabilities. The brain, like the body wants to move to a place of healing, wholeness, and balance and can recover from psychological disturbance much like the body recovers from physical injury.

For example, if you get a small cut on the skin, all things being equal, the body goes to work to heal the wound. If the wound is repeatedly injured it festers and causes pain. Once the irritation is removed, healing resumes.


EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequencing occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally wants to move toward mental and emotional health. If the system is blocked or overwhelmed by a disturbing event or series of events the emotional wound lingers producing distress in the present and leaves the original disturbing experiences unprocessed.

These memories are stored in the nervous system with all the emotions, sights, sounds, smells, and body feelings that occurred with the original experience. Since the brain is not able to process the experience adequately, the thoughts are often suppressed from consciousness. However, the distress lives on in the nervous system and can be triggered by present experiences.

EMDR therapy rapidly and effectively removes the blocks so healing can resume. It does this by doing two things. It first unlocks the negative thoughts and emotions and then allows the brain to process the experience.

As the memory is targeted and the eye movements applied, the memory is experienced in a new way. It allows internal associations to arise between the disturbing feelings and more adaptive thoughts leading to new perspectives and resulting in a more rapid resolution of the issue.

Damaged emotions are healed, limiting beliefs are transformed and past traumas big and small lose their power over the present. One moves from feeling powerless over their reactions to being able to take action and move forward with life.

EMDR Is Effective

EMDR therapy is recognized worldwide as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by: The American Psychiatric Association, World Health Organization, US Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, Israeli National Council for Mental Health, United Kingdom Department of Health, Dutch National Steering Committee Guidelines Mental Health Care and Northern Ireland Department of Health.

Innovative Therapy Helps Minnesotans Recover from Trauma

EMDR Is Proven

There are 30 randomized clinical trials with both adults and children demonstrating that EMDR is effective for post traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, aggression, behavior issues, and disturbing life events that fail to meet the criteria for PTSD. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. Additional studies are ongoing all over the world.

EMDR Is Safe

Only licensed clinicians are allowed to take approved EMDR training. The training is extensive and standardized requiring adherence to specific protocols and procedures established by the EMDR International Association. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. EMDR therapists take continuing education courses to keep their skills sharp. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.

Therapy Uses Eye Movements to Overcome Trauma, Anxiety, Phobias


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