Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an incredibly powerful approach to psychotherapy that has been practiced in the U.S. and around the world for the past 25 years.  EMDR therapy is recognized as an effective form of trauma treatment in numerous practice guidelines worldwide.  In the US, this includes organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the Veteran’s Administration and the Department of Defense.   EMDR is a therapy that is listed in the new Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense Practice Guidelines “A” category as “highly recommended” for the treatment of trauma.   It has received a high level of recommendation by the American Psychiatric Association and by the mental health departments of Israel, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Sweden and more. EMDR is also listed as an effective form of therapy, backed by research, on a new National Institute of Mental Health sponsored website.  EMDR was recently recognized by the World Health Organization as an effective treatment for trauma.

EMDR therapy is applicable for a wide range of psychological problems that result from overwhelming life experiences.  It is based on past and ongoing research into the neurobiology of the brain and how it processes disturbing events.  EMDR therapy includes an 8 phase treatment protocol. Complete treatment of the targets involves a three pronged protocol (1-past memories, 2-present disturbance, 3-future actions), and are needed to alleviate the symptoms and address the complete clinical picture. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health. “Processing” does not mean talking about it. “Processing” means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.

The number of sessions required for this form of treatment varies depending on the issues being addressed.  If there is a single traumatic incident that is the subject of the EMDR, then it can typically be resolved in five or six sessions, including the intake and preparation. However, for multiple traumas or a long history of past abuse, trauma or neglect, EMDR can take considerably longer for resolution of the issues.

Research Findings

Research on EMDR is ongoing. Trauma Recovery/HAP provides a periodically updated bibliography of Research Findings at EMDR.com. Additional information on trauma, EMDR practice and history can be found in numerous books and monographs. A growing collection of these and other materials can be found at the Francine Shapiro Library at EMDR.com.

Finding a trained Clinician:

EMDR should be administered only by licensed clinicians specifically trained in EMDR.  A listing of trained providers and their level of training can be found at www.emdria.org