Some psychotherapists utilise the EMDR technique, also known as eye movement desensitisation and
reprocessing, to help clients who are experiencing psychological discomfort.
According to research, EMDR therapy is generally safe and productive. For those with post-traumatic
stress disorder, organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatric
Association (APA) advise it (PTSD).
In this post, we examine the data supporting EMDR and talk about some of its possible advantages.
In the late 1980s, American psychologist Francine Shapiro created EMDR therapy.
Initially used to treat patients with traumatic memories, practitioners are now using it to treat a wide
range of diseases, including:
chronic pain anxiety
There are eight phases to the therapy. People recollect terrible events while shifting their gaze back and
forth during the therapy. This eye movement will be guided by the therapist.
Allowing people to process and incorporate these painful memories into their everyday memories is the
goal. The idea behind this technique is that recalling difficult memories while preoccupied makes them
less distressing. Exposure to these memories should lessen their influence over time.
In some ways, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), another PTSD treatment, and eye movement
desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) are comparable. Both entail recalling or talking about the
traumatic incident as well as identifying and changing the ideas.
The terms exposure and cognition describe these actions.
What it does
Traumatic memories alter the brain, according to the EMDR idea. These modifications prevent the mind
from correctly processing information, which results in uneasiness and intrusive thoughts.
According to experts, the brain may correctly interpret painful memories and incorporate them into a
person’s life story when they are remembered while making rapid eye movements.
Following are the eight stages of EMDR therapy:
Phase 1: Treatment planning and client history
The therapist will assess the client’s situation, including their tolerance for being exposed to upsetting
Based on the patient’s symptoms and the habits that need to be changed, they will next develop a
Phase 2: Planning
By building a therapeutic relationship with the client and educating them about EMDR, the therapist will
provide the foundation for the treatment.
They will also instruct the individual in self-control strategies, which are methods of handling troubling
memories that may surface.
Phase 3: Evaluation
The therapist will point out the traumatic memories that the client needs to address during this stage.
The client will next select a picture to represent each memory, noting any unfavourable thoughts or
uncomfortable feelings that come along with them. Then they will choose a positive idea to displace the
Phase 4: Desensitization
The goal of desensitisation is to lessen the client’s distressing responses to the traumatic memories,
including the bodily symptoms they experience when doing so.
Physical symptoms could include a fast heartbeat, perspiration, or gastrointestinal issues.
By controlling the client’s eye movements as they concentrate on the distressing content, the therapist
helps the client desensitise.
Fifth Stage: Installation
Installing the constructive thinking that the customer indicated in step 3 is the main goal of this stage.
Sixth stage: body scan
A body scan is a meditation practise in which the practitioner examines their entire body from head to
toe to become aware of any physical feelings.
These physical sensations will be the focus of the therapist’s EMDR therapy.
Phase 7: Completion
Using the self-control strategies they covered in phase 2, the therapist will stabilise the patient at the
conclusion of each session.
What the client can anticipate in between sessions will be explained by the therapist. Additionally, they
will request that the client keep track of any unfavourable incidents so that they can address them in the
Phase 8: Reassessment
A review of the treatment’s overall effectiveness is part of the last phase. Any other traumatic
consequences that should be targeted will be determined by the therapist and the client.
The majority of EMDR research focuses on its advantages for those suffering from PTSD and other
According to ResearchTrusted Source, EMDR may also be used to address symptoms like self-harm,
tension, and rage that come along with traumatic experiences.
But professionals also utilise it to treat a wide range of other ailments and problems, such as:
disordered hyperactivity and attention deficit (ADHD)
Phantom pain and persistent discomfort
symptoms of psychosis
difficulties with self-worth
skin issues that flare up under stress
For several of these problems, including psychotic symptoms and persistent pain, Trusted Source
recommends its utilisation.
For the best results, some people may decide to combine EMDR with other forms of therapy.
Is EMDR successful?
The EMDR Institute claims that more than 30 controlled outcome studies on EMDR therapy have
demonstrated its beneficial outcomes.
In several of these trials, after just three sessions, up to 90% of trauma survivors showed no signs of
The majority of participants in other research cited by the EMDR Institute experienced very positive
results after six to twelve sessions.
EMDR is currently suggested as a PTSD therapy option by organisations like the Department of Veterans
Affairs, the APA, and the WHOTrusted Source.
A research paper from 2014
24 randomised controlled trials that demonstrate the efficacy of EMDR therapy in the management of
trauma were examined by Trusted Source. Some of these research’ findings suggested that EMDR
therapy is superior to CBT for treating trauma.
According to some studies, EMDR may also be useful for treating other mental health conditions. In
patients with both psychosis and PTSD, it might, for instance, improve psychotic symptoms like:
difficulties with self-worth
Additionally, studies indicate that EMDR’s advantages endure over time. People who had EMDR
treatment for depression were less likely than those in the control group to experience relapse or
difficulties related to depression in the year after treatment, according to the authors of a small 2015
Many EMDR research, however, use minuscule sample sizes and provide scant follow-up data.
As a result, numerous academics have urged more investigation into the therapy.
Most medical professionals believe that EMDR therapy is a secure procedure. Typically, it results in less
side effects than treatments for depression and trauma symptoms.
Additionally, unlike certain medicines, EMDR may continue to be beneficial even after treatment has
However, EMDR and other types of treatment could have some unwanted effects, like:
a rise in unpleasant memories
heightened feelings or physical occurrences throughout sessions dizziness
the appearance of fresh traumatising memories
Usually, these symptoms will go away as the treatment progresses. In order to address fresh memories
and symptoms in subsequent sessions, people should be open with their therapist about their
experiences in between sessions.
Questions to ask a doctor
People who are interested in learning more about EMDR should consult a physician or other mental
health professional who specialises in the technique.
Ones to consider asking are:
Do you possess the necessary education and credentials?
How many patients with my specific issue have you used EMDR to treat?
How successful are you?
Do you stay current with EMDR education and research?
Is EMDR right for me?
How many appointments will I require?
How many sessions will it take for EMDR therapy to start?
How will each session proceed?
Are there long-term repercussions of treatment?
What adverse consequences might there be?
For more than 25 years, EMDR has been used by therapists to treat PTSD and other mental health
issues. There is accumulating evidence to support its effectiveness and safety in easing distress, anxiety,
and other symptoms.
Anyone interested in learning more about EMDR therapy should consult their physician or a trained