Everything About Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Process, Benefits, Case-studies and A Lot More

What is EMDR therapy and how does it work?

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a method of psychotherapy used to address trauma and other emotional issues. It is founded on the premise that some types of psychological suffering, including painful experiences or poor self-perceptions, can become lodged in the brain and body, causing emotional misery and other issues.

The therapist takes the client through a sequence of eye movements or other bilateral stimuli (which include tapping or sounds) while the client concentrates on an unpleasant memory or idea during EMDR therapy. According to the notion, this back-and-forth stimulation “unlocks” the blocked memory or concept, enabling it to be analyzed and assimilated in a more healthy manner.

EMDR has been shown to be useful in treating a wide range of disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other emotional difficulties. It is widely regarded as a safe and effective therapy choice for many people, and a number of professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization, have endorsed it.

What is the history of EMDR therapy?

Francine Shapiro, a clinical psychologist, and researcher created EMDR treatment in the late 1980s. Shapiro claims that while taking a walk and noticing how her personal suffering associated with a particular memory diminished as her eyes made certain motions, she accidentally discovered the fundamentals of EMDR therapy.

Shapiro started to create and test the EMDR therapy procedure and discovered that it helped with PTSD symptoms and other emotional problems. Her research was published in a number of articles and her 1995 book, “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures.” Since then, EMDR therapy has gained popularity and acceptance as a viable choice for treating trauma and other emotional problems.

What are the key concepts of EMDR therapy?

The fundamental ideas of EMDR therapy include the following:

  • Trauma: EMDR treatment is frequently used to treat patients who have gone through traumatic experiences including violence or sexual abuse, disasters, or combat. Trauma can cause symptoms like flashbacks, avoidance habits, and difficulties controlling emotions, as well as long-term effects on a person’s emotional and physical health.
  • Memories that are dysfunctional: As per EMDR therapy, some memories or events can “stick” in the head and body, causing continuing emotional anguish and functional issues. These recollections are frequently linked to self-defeating notions like “I am not beautiful anymore” or “I am incapable of love.” Back-and-forth eye movements or other bilateral stimulation techniques (such as tapping or noises) are used in EMDR therapy to “unlock” trapped memories and make them easier to absorb and integrate.
  • Reprocessing: The objective of EMDR therapy is to assist patients in “reprocessing” troublesome memories or ideas so that they can be better integrated into daily life. This may result in a lessening of symptoms and an enhancement of general functioning.
  • Desensitization: EMDR therapy seeks to assist patients in becoming less susceptible or reactive to upsetting memories or thoughts, enabling them to contemplate these events without encountering strong feelings or uncomfortable physical symptoms.
  • Information processing that is adaptive: According to the EMDR theory, the bilateral stimulation employed in the therapy aids in the brain’s innate ability to heal and overcome problems. This may result in a reduction in discomfort and an improvement in general well-being.

Which mental health illnesses are addressed using EMDR therapy? 

Many different mental health issues have been successfully treated with EMDR therapy, including:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): EMDR therapy is regarded as a first-line treatment for PTSD, and research has shown that it is successful in lowering symptoms like flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and difficulties controlling emotions.

Download E-book: Saying goodbye to PTSd and Trauma

Video: We have created this playlist for you to understand PTSD and your symptoms in a better way

  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety attacks, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder are among the symptoms of anxiety that have been shown to be successfully treated using EMDR therapy.

Read Blog: Different types of Anxiety Disorders and Coping Strategies to ease your sufferings

  • Depression: Research has shown that EMDR therapy is helpful in lowering the signs and symptoms of depression, such as poor mood, lack of interest, and trouble concentrating and making decisions.

Enroll in our course: How to overcome depression

  • Other emotional issues: Research has shown that EMDR therapy is useful in addressing a range of other emotional issues, including poor self-esteem, sorrow and loss, and issues with interpersonal relationships.

EMDR therapy should be utilized as a part of an all-encompassing treatment strategy that is adapted to the individual’s particular needs considering that it is not suitable for all types of mental illnesses. Always work with a skilled professional in mental health who can conduct an accurate assessment and choose the best course of action for therapy.

Is EMDR a form of hypnosis?

A form of psychotherapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is used to treat trauma and other mental health issues. Although it is not regarded as a kind of hypnosis, it does make use of several hypnotic-like components, such as relaxation and guided visualization.

What is the process or the 8 phases of EMDR therapy?

EMDR therapy normally goes through the following eight stages or phases:

  • Pre-treatment phase: Throughout this time, the therapist will fully assess the patient to learn about their current issues, past experiences, and current functioning. Additionally, the therapist will educate the patient regarding EMDR therapy and address any queries or worries they may have.
  • The phase of preparation: During this stage, the psychotherapist will engage with the patient to help them acquire the knowledge and tools necessary to deal with any distress that can come during the EMDR therapy procedure. This can entail learning relaxation techniques, establishing one’s own positive self-perceptions, and creating a support network.
  • The phase of assessment: During this stage, the therapist will assist the patient in pinpointing particular emotions or memories that are causing their present problems. The psychotherapist will also evaluate the person’s present self-concept and worldview, as well as the severity of the feelings and bodily sensations connected to these memories.
  • The phase of desensitization: The patient will be led by the therapist through a sequence of eye movements or other simultaneous stimuli (such as tapping or sounds) whilst concentrating on the recognized memory or concept. Bilateral stimulation will be used by the therapist until the strength of the emotions and bodily sensations connected to the memory is reduced to a tolerable level.
  • Installation phase: The therapist will collaborate with the patient to pinpoint and bolster empowering ideas about themselves and about the world during this stage. The psychotherapist may also employ methods like guided imagery or positive cognition to assist the client in gaining a more adaptable viewpoint.
  • Body scan phase: The person will be assisted by the therapist in scanning their body for any lingering bodily sensations or feelings related to the analyzed memory or idea. Bilateral stimulation will be used by the therapist to address any unresolved distress until it is.
  • The phase of closure: During this time, the therapist will help the patient adjust to daily life again by offering support and direction. The psychotherapist may also go through any assignments or acquired training that the patient can work on outside of sessions.
  • Reevaluation phase: Throughout this stage, the therapist will evaluate the patient’s development and decide whether more work on the processed recollection or concept is required or if it is time to switch to a new direction. The therapist may inquire further about the patient’s general functioning and well-being.

Video: Watch this video by “British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy” on EMDR

What does an EMDR session typically look like?

A typical EMDR therapy session lasts 60 to 90 minutes and has a set structure. The therapist will start by going over the patient’s development and any worries or problems that have surfaced since the previous session. The patient will subsequently be guided by the therapist through the aforementioned EMDR therapy procedure’s various phases.

The person will be advised to concentrate on the designated memory or concept while the therapist utilizes bilateral stimulation during the desensitization phase. The therapist will continue to employ bilateral stimulation till the discomfort has completely subsided and will frequently check in with the patient regarding the severity of the physical and emotional sensations connected to the memory.

The psychotherapist may also employ strategies like guided imagery or positive cognition to encourage the patient to adopt a more adaptable viewpoint and reinforce their positive assumptions about the world and themselves.

The therapist will offer the patient encouragement and direction during the session and will prod them to carve out time as needed. The therapist will also offer any training or tools required to aid the patient in better understanding and controlling their emotions and behaviors.

The psychotherapist will discuss any homework or other skills that the client can practice in between sessions at the conclusion of the session, and will organize the following session as necessary.

Read Blog: Know this about EMDR

Case study showing various elements and phases of EMDR therapy

Case study 1: David

David, a 40-year-old guy, has spent the majority of his life battling anxiety and low self-esteem. He had always fought with self-defeating ideas like “I am a failure” and “I am not competent enough.” He avoided taking chances and attempting new things as a result of these beliefs, which also contributed to his anxiousness and low self-esteem.

David made the decision to attempt EMDR therapy and started meeting with a psychotherapist who had received the appropriate training. The therapist thoroughly assessed David throughout the pre-treatment stage in order to comprehend his current issues, past experiences, and current functioning. In addition, the therapist explained EMDR therapy and answered any queries or worries David had.

The psychotherapist collaborated with David to help him acquire the knowledge and tools necessary to deal with any distress that could surface throughout the EMDR treatment procedure during the preparation phase. This includes establishing his own positive self-beliefs, learning relaxing techniques, and creating a support network.

The therapist assisted David in pinpointing particular memories or events that were causing his present problems throughout the assessment phase. They evaluated David’s current views regarding himself and his environment as well as the strength of the physical and emotional sensations connected to these recollections.

The therapist led David through a sequence of eye motions as he concentrated on the recognized memory or concept during the desensitization phase.

When the strength of the feelings and physical sensations connected to the memory waned to a manageable degree, the therapist kept using bilateral stimulation.

David and the therapist identified and strengthened his positive views about himself and the outside world during the installation phase. Additionally, they employed methods like guided imagery and positive cognition to assist David in acquiring a more adaptable viewpoint.

 What are the benefits of EMDR therapy?

A number of mental health issues have been reported to respond well to EMDR therapy, which also offers a number of potential advantages, including:

  • Reducing trauma symptoms: Research has shown that EMDR therapy is useful in reducing trauma symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and trouble controlling emotions. Additionally, it can aid people in feeling less sensitive or receptive to upsetting memories or thoughts.
  • Enhancing overall functioning: EMDR therapy can assist patients in feeling better in control of their emotions and actions and in carrying out daily tasks more successfully. Additionally, it may result in a rise in general quality of life and well-being.
  • Reducing anxiety and depression symptoms: Reduction in symptoms such as panic attacks, fears, and low mood, have been proven to be successful with EMDR therapy.
  • Enhancing self-esteem and self-worth: EMDR therapy can assist people in forming more optimistic opinions of themselves and their talents, which can enhance self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Improved relations: Relationships can be improved by using EMDR treatment to help people express their needs, desires, and boundaries more clearly. This results in relationships that are healthier and more meaningful.

EMDR therapy can empower patients by helping them better understand their behaviors and emotions and encouraging them to actively participate in their recovery and development. This may result in feelings of empowerment and increased agency.

Enroll in our course: EMDR Practitioner Toolbox – Treatment of Complex PTSD

Case study showing the benefits of EMDR therapy

Case study 2: Sarah

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms have plagued Sarah, a 35-year-old lady, for a number of years. She had been through a horrible occurrence as a child and had always had trouble controlling her emotions, flashbacks, and avoidance habits. She had tried a variety of various therapies but had not seen long-lasting relief.

Sarah made the decision to attempt EMDR therapy and started meeting with a psychotherapist who had received the necessary training. Sarah with her therapist discovered a number of particular memories that were causing her PTSD symptoms while she was receiving treatment. Together, they used EMDR therapy approaches, such as bilateral stimulation (eye movements) and constructive cognition, to process these memories.

Sarah saw a lessening of her symptoms as she processed these recollections. She experienced a decrease in the frequency and intensity of her flashbacks, and she was able to participate in activities she had earlier avoided because of her PTSD symptoms. Additionally, she mentioned that she felt more in command of her emotional responses in addition to being more secure in her capacity to handle stress.

Overall, Sarah benefited greatly from EMDR therapy and also was capable of making substantial strides in her PTSD recovery. She was able to participate more completely in her professional and personal lives and felt more optimistic about the future.

Evidence from research that highlights the benefits of EMDR therapy.

Numerous mental health disorders can be treated using EMDR therapy, according to an increasing number of studies. Key conclusions from research investigations include the following:

  • Multiple randomized controlled trials have revealed that EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD, resulting in a decrease in symptoms like flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and difficulties controlling feelings (Bisson et al., 2013; van der Kolk et al., 2007; Lee et al., 2010).
  • Research has shown that EMDR therapy can be helpful in easing the symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder (Maxfield et al., 2012; Van den Hout et al., 2002).
  • The use of EMDR treatment has been shown to be useful in lowering the symptoms of depression, such as poor mood, loss of interest, and difficulties concentrating and making decisions (Lee et al., 2010; Powers et al., 2008).
  • EMDR therapy is beneficial in enhancing general functioning, according to research, which also shows that it can result in better relationships, higher self-worth, and an improvement in general functioning and well-being (Bisson et al., 2013; van der Kolk et al., 2007).

Is EMDR scientifically valid?

Yes, EMDR is considered to be scientifically valid.  Several clinical studies demonstrate that EMDR generates more improvement than no treatment, at least for civilian PTSD symptoms such as those provoked by assault or abuse. The data for EMDR’s efficacy in treating various anxiety disorders is encouraging but preliminary.

Why is EMDR controversial?

Although it is typically regarded as a safe and effective treatment, it has also generated debate and controversy among the mental health community.

The fact that the technique by which EMDR is said to work is not completely known is one reason why it has generated controversy. Although it is believed that using eye movements or other bilateral stimulation can aid in the processing and resolution of traumatic memories, the precise mechanism by which this happens is not well understood. To better understand how EMDR functions, some researchers have questioned its efficacy and advocated for more studies.

Another reason for the controversy surrounding EMDR is that it is a relatively new treatment, and some mental health practitioners may be unfamiliar with it or have not been trained in its usage. This has raised concerns regarding the quality of EMDR training programs and practitioners’ competence.

Despite the controversy, EMDR has been shown in a number of research studies to be a successful treatment for trauma and other mental health disorders, and it is generally regarded as a safe and effective treatment when administered by a skilled and trained mental health practitioner.

What are the side effects and dangers of EMDR therapy?

In general, it is thought to be secure and reliable for treating trauma and other mental health issues. However, there are potential risks and side effects that should be taken into account, just like with any therapy.

The following are a few possible EMDR therapy side effects:

  • Temporary increases in distress: As they work through challenging memories or emotions during EMDR therapy, patients frequently experience brief spikes in distress. Generally speaking, this is seen as a typical stage of the process and should go away with time and help from the therapist.
  • Exacerbation of symptoms: In a small percentage of cases, EMDR therapy may worsen current symptoms or cause the emergence of new ones. This is more likely if the person is not adequately prepared for the therapy or if the therapist is not properly trained in EMDR.
  • Physical discomfort: During EMDR therapy, some people may experience physical discomforts, such as a headache or eye strain. This is usually just transient and can be alleviated with proper self-care or medical therapy.

To reduce the risks and potential dangers of EMDR therapy, it is critical to engage with a certified and trained mental health professional who is familiar with the technique. It is also critical to be open and honest with your therapist about any concerns or challenges that occur throughout treatment.

Who is an EMDR therapist?

A mental health professional who is trained in the application of EMDR therapy to treat trauma and other mental health disorders is known as an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist. Therapists that have obtained specific training in EMDR include licensed psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, and other types of therapists.

A master’s or doctoral degree in a mental health subject, such as psychology or social work, is often required to become an EMDR therapist. To perform therapy, they could additionally need a license or certification from their state or nation. EMDR therapists must complete a specialized training program in EMDR treatment in addition to their official education and training, and they must continue to meet continuing education requirements.

EMDR therapists deal with individuals who have gone through trauma or other mental health issues to help them process and resolve unpleasant memories and feelings. Therapists trained in EMDR may work in a broad range of settings, including private practice, hospitals, clinics, and community mental health agencies.


In summation, EMDR therapy is a secure and reliable choice for treating a variety of mental health issues, such as trauma, stress, anxiety, phobias, and depression. It is predicated on the notion that some memories or experiences have the potential to “stick” in the mind and body, resulting in chronic emotional anguish and functional issues. Bilateral stimulation techniques, like eye movements or tapping, are used in EMDR therapy to assist patients in “unlocking” and reprocessing these blocked memories, reducing symptoms and enhancing general functioning and well-being. Numerous professional organizations have recognized EMDR therapy because it has been shown in research to be useful in easing the symptoms of trauma and other emotional problems.

Although not all mental health issues can benefit from EMDR therapy, it can be a significant component of a complete treatment strategy for many people who are looking for relief from psychological anguish.

Download our free worksheet on EMDR therapy!

Enroll in our Accredited EMDR Online Course

Download Free worksheet of this article

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Leave a Reply