What is EMDR and how does it work?

In the realm of psychotherapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) stands out as a relatively modern, non-traditional form of psychotherapy that has garnered significant attention for its effectiveness in treating trauma and other psychological stress. This article delves into the workings of EMDR, emphasizing the critical role of professional help and its numerous positive aspects.

Understanding EMDR

Francine Shapiro developed EMDR in the late 1980s. At its core, EMDR is predicated on the understanding that the mind can heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers 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 mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.

The EMDR Process

EMDR therapy involves a structured eight-phase approach that includes: (1) history-taking, (2) preparation, (3) assessment, (4) desensitization, (5) installation, (6) body scan, (7) closure, and (8) reevaluation. Central to this process is the use of bilateral stimulation, typically in the form of guided eye movements, to help process distressing memories and thoughts.

Advantages of EMDR

One of the most significant advantages of EMDR is its proven efficacy in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Numerous studies have shown that EMDR can rapidly reduce the symptoms of PTSD, often in fewer sessions than that required by traditional therapies. Moreover, EMDR’s applications extend beyond PTSD, offering benefits to individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders.

Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of EMDR is the speed at which it can produce results. Unlike traditional forms of psychotherapy, which can take years, EMDR therapy results in a significantly shorter time frame, making it a valuable tool for those seeking quick relief from psychological distress.

The Importance of Professional Guidance

The efficacy of EMDR underscores the importance of seeking treatment from trained, licensed professionals. This therapy requires a therapist to lead the patient through the eight phases, ensuring that the process is conducted safely and effectively. The therapist’s role is not just to guide the eye movements but to create a safe space where the patient can process difficult emotions and memories without judgment.

Safety and ethical considerations are paramount in EMDR therapy. A professional therapist ensures that the patient is appropriately guided through the potentially re-traumatizing memories, making the process as safe as possible. This professional guidance is crucial in preventing any potential harm from improperly conducted therapy sessions.

Positive Aspects of EMDR

A key positive aspect of EMDR therapy is the empowerment it offers clients. Unlike some forms of treatment that require extensive talking about distressing experiences, EMDR allows individuals to engage in an internal healing process without the need for detailed verbal recounting of traumatic events. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who struggle to articulate their experiences or maybe re-traumatized by recounting them.

Another advantage of EMDR is its minimal reliance on verbal communication. This feature makes it especially suitable for those who cannot express their thoughts and feelings verbally, such as children or individuals with speech impairments.

The scientific support for EMDR is robust, with many research studies backing its effectiveness. These studies provide a solid foundation for the therapy’s use and contribute to its growing acceptance in the mental health community.


EMDR stands out as a unique and effective form of psychotherapy, particularly for treating trauma and PTSD. Its structured approach, combined with the benefits of rapid results and empowerment of clients, makes it a noteworthy option for those seeking psychological help. The importance of undergoing EMDR with a trained professional cannot be overstated, as it ensures the safety and effectiveness of the therapy.

As we continue to understand and appreciate the complexities of mental health, therapies like EMDR offer a beacon of hope. They demonstrate the potential for innovative approaches to alleviate psychological pain and empower individuals toward greater mental well-being. For those struggling with the aftermath of traumatic events, EMDR presents a promising avenue for recovery, symbolizing a significant step forward in the field of psychotherapy.

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