top of page


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) alongside other conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and phobias. EMDR is based on the principle that overwhelming experiences are stored in sensory forms that can then recur as flashbacks, intense memories, nightmares, or other intrusive symptoms. 


EMDR is a comprehensive treatment model that consists of 8 phases, from treatment planning through reassessment, all focused upon the resolution of memories stored in unsettling and unresolved forms. 


EMDR takes a three-pronged approach to this task, starting with a past memory, which is often the first or worst instance of a trauma, phobia, or source of negative emotion. When the therapist and client have determined that a client is ready, this memory and associated images, emotions, negative thoughts, and body sensations, are brought to client awareness and a form of bilateral (side-to-side) stimulation (BLS) is initiated. BLS modes include eye movements and audio tones, among others.


The bilateral eye movements used in EMDR are believed to both enable memory retrieval and also maintain focus on the current moment. Research suggests that the eye movements used in EMDR enable similar memory resolution as REM and slow wave sleep, so that memories are stored in past context. 


There are frequent breaks between these reprocessing sets, to further remind the client of current safety. 


After the distressing memory and negative self-focused belief are decreased in intensity, a positive belief is installed with BLS. 


For an example of how EMDR may resolve past trauma, consider the case of someone who, while driving, was stricken at an intersection by another car. This individual experienced fear and flashbacks when approaching the location where the accident occurred. After EMDR therapy, the survivor of this crash no longer encountered any negative symptoms when driving through the intersection where the traumatic event took place. The wreck was recognized as a past event, rather than a current threat.


Please see links below for further descriptions of EMDR and references to the scientific research literature base:



bottom of page