Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – EMDR

What is EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b).

Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing model posits that EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences to bring these to an adaptive resolution.

After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.

What is the EMDR Approach?

Therapist directed lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus, but various other stimuli, including hand-tapping and audio stimulation, are often used (Shapiro, 1991).

Shapiro (1995, 2001) hypothesizes that EMDR therapy facilitates accessing the traumatic memory network so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information.

These new associations are thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.

7 phases are used to administer the simple but effective form of EMDR therapy.

EMDR Phase 1 – The Therapist will prepare the patient/client before directed lateral eye movements are initiated. The therapist takes a thorough history of the client and develops a treatment plan.

EMDR Phase 2 – This is the phase of treatment where the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress during the therapy session. The therapist may teach the client various imagery and stress reduction techniques the client can use during and between sessions. A goal of EMDR therapy is to produce rapid and effective change while the client maintains equilibrium during and between sessions.

EMDR Phase 3 – This is the Assessment and Reprocessing phase. A negative experience is isolated and targeted. This target is then properly identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures. The client will identify the clear visual image related to the memory, a particular negative belief about his/her self, and related emotions.

EMDR Phase 4 – This is the Desensitization phase. It allows identifying and resolving similar events that may have occurred and are associated with the target.

EMDR Phase 5 – 6 – This phase aims to concentrate on and increase the strength of the positive belief that the person has identified to replace his original negative belief.
Evaluations of thousands of EMDR sessions indicate that there is a physical response to unresolved thoughts.

This finding has been supported by independent studies of memory, indicating that when a person is negatively affected by trauma, information about the traumatic event is stored in motoric (or body systems) memory, rather than narrative memory, and retains the negative emotions and physical sensations of the original event.

However, when that information is processed, it can then move to narrative (or verbalizable) memory, and the body sensations and negative feelings associated with it disappear.

EMDR Phase 7 – In phase seven, closure, the therapist asks the client to keep a log during the week. The log should document any related material that may arise. It serves to remind the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.


EMDR is probably your next option if you suffer from everyday memories that create low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that go with most mood swings. According to the EMDR Official Website, millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.

EMDR Resources