Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing therapy (EMDR)


What it Is

This integrated method of psychotherapy, whose central tenets are rooted in CBT, was intended to help those suffering from PTSD and other traumatic events.  EMDR does not impose a rigid definition of a “trauma,” as a distressing memory or situation can come in many forms (e.g. almost getting in a car accident, being embarrassed at school, being abused, coming home and realizing that you couldn’t have changed an unfortunate circumstance).  It is a form of therapy that combines standard Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, exposure based therapy, and Psychodynamic Therapy. 

How it Works

An important element of EMDR is called bilateral stimulation, which occurs through using a specially designed light bar that a person’s eyes follow, a vibrating set of hand pulsors, or a set of headphones that produce soft bilateral tones.  After a mind/body assessment, the bilateral movements, in whatever form, are engaged in. Research suggests that the effective mechanism of change in the EMDR therapy appears to be the exposure aspect of the process (e.g. engagement in thoughts, images, body sensations that cause distress in the present).  



Shapiro, F. (2017). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy: Basic principles, protocols, and procedures. Guilford Publications

Taylor, S., Thordarson, D. S., Maxfield, L., Fedoroff, I. C., Lovell, K., & Ogrodniczuk, J. (2003). Comparative efficacy, speed, and adverse effects of three PTSD treatments: exposure therapy, EMDR, and relaxation training. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 71(2), 330.