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What is EMDR Therapy?

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a evidence-based therapy developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro. As a memory based therapy which addresses the mind-body connection it can be utilized to assist with a wide variety of causes of emotional distress and adverse experiences.


EMDR Therapy is treatment approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980's. After many years of research and development, EMDR became an evidence based model for the treatment of PTSD. It has been widely researched with many other emotional health issues with proven efficacy.

As a Certified EMDR Therapist with the International Association of EMDR called EMDRIA I have witnessed the power of transformation that can occur in this approach. I appreciate the flexibility of EMDR therapy and the ability to integrate many modalities within its phase oriented structure.

A few of the distinct components of EMDR are:

  1. EMDR through its premise of the AIP seeks to complete processing and restore the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) innately within us. This is the mechanism by which we process and store memories. From a neurobiological approach trauma is defined as when an adverse experience occurs an an overload of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) created an isolated, unprocessed event in the ANS which can creating lasting dysregulation (ie symptoms such as anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, recurrent and distressing dreams or flashbacks, etc).

  2. The three prong approach of EMDR - Past, Present and Future. Our neural networks are based in chains of association, or channels. Therefore when a present day "trigger" occurs (an associated image, cognition/thought, emotion or sensation of the original past event) is "stuck" material evoking the same ANS survival reaction as the original event. The stuck material of the past continues to create blocked processing, identified as the symptom in the present. The present is in the past, and the future needs to be addressed.

  3. Phase-oriented approach means there is more structure than other models of therapeutic treatment. The 8 Phases of EMDR are: (1) assessment and treatment planning, (2) preparation phase; (3)identifying distressing material, (4)desensitizing the distress, (5)installation of new cognitive beliefs, (6) closing or containment strategies, (7) body scan and (8) re-evaluation. The phases are not necessarily linear but they are the framework of understanding and progression from which the therapist conceptualizes treatment.

  4. Dual attention is essential. Dual attention means there is the capacity to be both fully aware of the present moment while also being able to connect with distressing material. The early phases of therapy focus in the development and/or return to a nervous system felt sense of safety in nervous system to prepare for reprocessing.

  5. Bi-lateral stimulation (bls) Simply defined it is the use of alternating left-right stimulation which can be achieved through eye movements, kinesthetic cues (tapping), or audio tones. The use of bls is utilized with varying speeds in the therapy experiences.

  6. Whole-Brain and Body approach. EMDR conceptualizes treatment as mind and the body. It is incredibly flexible due to it's phase oriented model and many other types of therapies are easily integrated (for example, somatic interventions, parts work, mindfulness, and so on). A more highly-trained EMDR therapist will have increased knowledge and guidance through these phases.

What I love about EMDR are the outcomes. While no therapy can guarantee positive outcomes, it has been my experience in the many years of practice to be a part of some pretty incredible outcomes and hopeful futures.

My hope is that this information engages your curiosity to consider EMDR therapy, If you are, feel free to reach out to consult with an EMDR therapist whatever concern you are struggling with in this present moment. You are worthy of healing it!


Disclaimer: This website and blog only provides information. It does not provide any mental health, psychological, financial, legal an/or legal advice. The content within does not aim to prevent, cure, or treat any mental or medical condition. Solely you are responsible for your own well-being, decisions, choices, actions, and results. Julie Cardoza, LMFT, RYT, CIT disclaims any liability for your reliance on any opinions or advice contained in this website.



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