EMDR, What is it and How it can help

EMDR…Have you heard that acronym yet? Maybe a friend is using it with their therapist. Or maybe you have seen TV show therapists (Ever watch Grey’s Anatomy or Criminal Minds?!) talk about its use and perform EMDR – don’t forget, what you see on TV rarely is done in reality! For professionals in the counseling world, this tool is even more intriguing as our understanding of how neuroscience and psychology intersect and continues to become more comprehensive. Have I peaked your curiosity yet? Read on to learn more and see if EMDR could be for you.

How does EMDR work?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new therapeutic tool developed in the last 30 years by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. EMDR has quickly become the preferred treatment approach for individuals struggling with emotional health symptoms that stem from traumatic life events, and those who are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But this does not mean you need to have this diagnosis to benefit from EMDR. Often the term ‘trauma’ is used, and the listener may interpret that to mean something catastrophic or life threatening. However, what may have a traumatic impact on one person, such as being in a major auto accident, may not have the same impact on another who is able to recover and brush it off as a moment in their past. Similarly, something that can seem mundane and minimal to most of us – think forgetting a scheduled appointment – could very well significantly impact another. We all experience life uniquely and a traumatic impact is something to be personally defined by the individual’s experience. What makes the protocol so uniformly beneficial for most individuals is that EMDR focuses on the person’s individual experience, as this is how the brain assimilated that experience internally.

Because of this, EMDR can be an appropriate tool for many issues beyond post traumatic symptoms. It has been used to support treatment of addictions, depressive disorders, anxiety and panic disorders, phobias, complex grief reactions, individuals with chronic physical health issues, and much more. EMDR can also be used in treating these same issues in children. Many people can experience great gains from working with a therapist who uses EMDR!

How does EMDR work?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an interactive psychotherapy technique. It is a very focused approach for treating trauma and other symptoms. EMDR reconnects the client in a safe and measured way to the images, self-thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with the trauma, and allows the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution. It is based on the idea that traumatic experiences have overwhelmed the brain’s natural coping capacity, and that the healing process can be facilitated through eye movements, which your therapist will call bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation helps the brain to reassimilate an understanding of those past events in the context of the present, safe environment of the therapist’s office (this is called dual awareness), simultaneously allowing the strengths the client now possesses to help support the mind’s understanding of the current stance of the self.

EMDR is often used in conjunction with typical talk therapy modalities, and so you will still have an opportunity to develop a relationship and explore additional aspects of your life as needed.

How will I benefit from EMDR?

Can this help me? Absolutely! EMDR has been the most studied psychological treatment tool in the last 30 years. Study after study show the majority of people who initially present with symptoms of depression or anxiety, PTSD symptoms, and dissociative issues all demonstrate improvement through their work using EMDR. For a comprehensive list of clinical trials and meta analysis studies on the efficacy of EMDR, follow this link.

The length of time for an individual to experience positive results depends on the presenting issue and the complexity of the trauma. We can adapt treatment focus if it is necessary for you to keep your services brief, but for complex trauma issues this is not advisable and you may want to engage into a different therapeutic modality. It would be important for you to address this issue with your therapist. EMDR can still be used within the standard clinical hour.

Who can provide EMDR therapy?

Now that you know more, you might be intrigued enough to want to explore EMDR further with a therapist. Ensuring you are matching yourself with a therapist who has the training and experience in correctly using this modality is important. Here are a few things that you can ask to fully understand your therapist’s competence in providing EMDR therapy:

What organization sponsored your training in EMDR?

*Those who received their education from EMDRIA have been taught accurately and comprehensively in how to use the EMDR protocol

Are you certified in EMDR?

*Certified EMDR therapists have spent additional supervision hours post initial training under the consultation with a Certified Consultant to enhance their knowledge and skill base.

-How often and when do you use EMDR in your clinical practice?

*This will help you to inform you of their experience and application in using EMDR with clients.


There is much information to absorb here. Do you want to learn more? Take a moment and watch  YouTube video created by EMDRIA for additional information. Miracles Counseling Centers has therapists who are trained in EMDR and would be happy to help you in your journey towards wellness. Visit our Clinicians page to choose a provider that fits you!