Published on 17 September 2021

Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR)

Sports Psychology Eye-Movement-Desensitization-And-Reprocessing-(EMDR)
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What's better than curing traumatic memories with eye movement; Eye movement has been a workaholic in overcoming traumatic situations.

The rhythmic eye moments, which creates bilateral stimulation inside both sides of the brain because people experience traumatic experience, is the main focus of EMDR therapy.

EMDR was created in the 1980s; the person behind this was Francine Shapiro, who was also suffering from this traumatic event at that time. She recovered from the technique she created and was convinced she was not alone in who suffered this problem. That's why she came up with a new method of therapy that could help people with similar issues. 

It is becoming to be an ideal choice for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or people who experienced extreme events in the military, suffered mental damage during a car accident, or physically assaulted, with phobias, and the one who is a sociopath.
Recovering from and getting over traumatic episodes can be a huge challenge with all the flashbacks, panic attacks, and hypervigilance in mundane settings. 

EMDR: Movement That Works For Traumatic Situations

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an interactive psychotherapeutic approach to alleviate psychological distress. It is a therapy that helps people recover from problems like Trauma. It is a mental health  treatment technique that enables you to heal from distressing life experiences."

What All Conditions Does EMDR Treats?

Although most research on EMDR treatment has examined its use on people living with PTSD, EMDR can sometimes be used experimentally to treat other psychological issues, such as

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Addictions
  • Eating disorders
  • Phobias
  • sociopathy

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR is based on the idea that negative and disabling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors result from unprocessed emotions and memories. The treatment involves standardized approaches that include focusing simultaneously on the following:

  • Instant associations of traumatic memories, including; thoughts, images, emotions, and bodily sensations.
  • Bilateral stimulation is the one that is used most commonly in the form of repeated eye movements.

An EMDR therapy session can last up to 90 minutes, once or twice a week, for 6 to 12 sessions.

How Does Emdr Therapist Treat You In Terms Of Therapy?

Your therapist may move their fingers in oscillatory motions (back and forth/ side to side) in front of your face and direct you to follow these hand motions with your eyes. Simultaneously, your therapist will have you recall the traumatic event, including the accompanying emotions and body sensations.

Some therapists may also use various alternatives, finger movements, such as hand/toe-tapping or musical tones
Generally, soothing types of music help in calming your mind. So your therapists may also suggest you listen to it often when you are stressed. 

Steadily, your therapist will guide you to shift your thoughts to pleasant ones. 

EMDR is considered adequate because recalling traumatic events is usually less emotionally upsetting or distressing when your attention is diverted. This allows you to be exposed to disabling memories or thoughts without having an intense psychological response.

Other therapies are primarily designed to focus on the changes in the particular experiences and the vision of that problem. They are made to change the sense of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of that person, which happens because of distressing experiences. In contrast, EMDR is specifically designed to counter the way of traumatic memory. In short, EMDR manipulates that memory by changing the vision of thinking by tricking it from negative to positive.

Over time, this technique is believed to eventually lessen the impact of the memories or thoughts on you.

How Common Is EMDR Therapy?

Almost every person suffering from problems, mainly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), searches for a cure or therapy online or offline. They eventually came to know about EMDR therapy. 

A recent online survey has found that EMDR is a commonly known therapy known by most people. So, people are aware of the fact that something like EMDR therapy exists.

Frequently asked questions

After the situation i.e. covid-19, there are so many therapists who started consulting online sessions. It can prove to be a very good session as you will be more comfortable in your own place, house, etc.
Every person has their own different effects. Sometimes it can take more than 1 session to see the changes, or sometimes it can be effective in just the first session. It is also based on how positively your brain reacts to the therapy.
You might not get recover from Repressed memories. It will only reprocess unstabled processed memories.

Is EMDR Controversial?

EMDR has a more special style of treating the problem than any other therapy. Other therapy focuses on the effect or mental effect caused by that memory. In contrast, EMDR directly focuses on that particular memory and tries to modify how you think or see it. 

So sometimes, different people tend to get affected by therapy differently. Some people may also change their perspective of seeing life forever. Only those people find the problem with this therapy.

However, experts and trained professionals say it is not the case. The side effects have been associated with those who lack enough knowledge and do not take guidance from qualified professionals.

Using EMDR To Treat PTSD

EMDR therapy uses a standard structure of eight-phase. It is then divided according to the actual sessions attended by you. All the approaches include step-by-step phases, which are elaborated on below: 

Phase 1: History And Comprehension

Your therapist will first evaluate your history and comprehend where you are in the treatment process. In this phase, the patient will have to explicitly open up about their Trauma and identify the intensity and other underlying potential traumatic memories and triggers. Your therapist will then map out treatment plans and goals for sequential processing.

Phase 2: Preparing The Client

Your therapist makes you go through a process known as "Resourcing." It helps you by giving an overview of the treatment plan. It generally starts with Therapists explaining in detail the reasons they think are causing your symptoms and how you can start learning different ways to process and cope with your Trauma healthily. 

They may teach you some self-control techniques, such as deep breathing, Mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, etc., that can help you reduce your Anxiety and calm your mind.

Phase 3: Assessing The Target Memory

You and your therapist will work together to assess the target memory that triggers emotional distress: 
The incident that caused the Trauma (Was it an accident of the loved one, the death in front of you, or a regretful decision)
The most persistent image is associated with memory.

Phases 4-7: Processing The Memory To Adaptive Resolutions)

Phase 4: Desensitization

The traumatic event is evaluated rationally. Your therapist will try to encourage and help you change how your brain associates your Trauma with its trigger.

You will be asked to focus on the memory that evokes an adverse reaction while simultaneously making eye movements incorporating bilateral stimulation. The bilateral stimulation is conducted in a series of sets that usually last for about 25 seconds each. After each group, you will be instructed to take deep breaths and ask for feedback on your experience during the initial set.

Your therapist may adjust the type, length, and speed of stimulation used to direct your eye movement depending on the intensity of your response to the Trauma. Activities like audio hearing, unstable or random lights blinking, tapping, and making your eye movements in a specific rhythm are performed during bilateral stimulation.

Phase 5: Installation

When you hear the word "Install," you might need to pay extra attention to your therapist when he is talking. Because your therapist will guide you on "installing" a positive belief deep into your thought process and patterns, they will help you strengthen the favorable impression to replace the negative one. For instance, if you were physically abused or assaulted as a child, you will be allowed to realize that you can resist Abuse as an adult.

This process will extend until your feelings of Trauma are reduced and you experience more positive feelings after completing each set.

Phase 6: Body Scan

Following the installation phase, your therapist will ask you to bring back the memory of the traumatic event to your mind to reevaluate it. The purpose is to help your therapist see whether the event triggers you by checking the response, such as raised pulse, blood pressure, or muscle tension. In other words, whether there is any residual trauma. Suppose you continue to experience negative emotions related to the Trauma. In that case, your therapist will observe the reaction and movement, eventually deciding the number of bilateral eye movement sessions needed. 

Phase 7: Closure

The closure is generally used to end the session. Suppose the targeted memory was not entirely processed in the session. In that case, your therapist will emphasize specific instructions and techniques, such as maintaining a record of any disturbances between sessions, and coach you on how to manage them effectively. 

Your Therapists may give you some after-session assignments to help maintain the base of the successful treatment.

  • Movements or works that will keep you busy. It could be only mental work or sometimes physical with mental sweat too. Its main intention is to keep your brain active with another challenging job, which will help avoid those traumatic moments.
  • The therapist will also suggest meditation, yoga, etc., so your focus and concentration will increase. It will give you the advantage of controlling your thought process.

Phase 8: Evaluating Treatment Results

Your therapist will evaluate your current psychological state, whether treatment effects have been sustained, which memories may have emerged since the last session, and identify targets for the new session.

EMDR Research Findings

Just as with psychotherapeutic approaches, the effectiveness of EMDR contradicts the limited knowledge of its underlying mechanism of action. Due to its relatively short life as a psychotherapeutic option, EMDR has been controversial, particularly regarding the role of bilateral stimulation as the active component of the treatment.

People who use this approach argue that EMDR therapy can help weaken the effect and intensity of negative emotions. Before and after each EMDR therapy session, your therapist may ask you to rate the level of distress you are experiencing. The goal is that your traumatic memories progressively become less disabling.

How Is The Traumatic Incident Relevant To The Present?

During this phase of EMDR treatment, a positive belief may be introduced, like (You are not responsible for the incident, you are safe now, or how it was not the regretful decision you made), to help counteract the negative emotions caused by the Trauma.

What Can You Expect Out Of EMDR Therapy Treatment?

EMDR is safe, with no physical or internal side effects. But if you treat yourself with any medication, then it will also come with specific side effects, which is not suggested by any experts at all. If the therapy doesnt help, only then could the medication help you. However, it is rarely the case when someone doesn't cure with this therapy.

Specific mental side effects that you may experience, such as EMDR therapy, can cause a heightened awareness of thinking which may not end immediately after a session ends. This can cause you to feel light-headed. It may also cause extremely vivid, realistic dreams.

It often takes several sessions of EMDR therapy to treat PTSD, meaning it doesn't work overnight, and you will have to be patient, consistent, cooperative, and committed.

Initially, the beginning of your treatment may be exceptionally triggering as you start to deal with traumatic events, mainly due to the heightened focus caused by EMDR. While the medicine will likely be effective in the long run, it can be emotionally distressing to get through treatment.

How Effective is EMDR?

Since psychologist Francine Shapiro created EMDR in 1989, more than 20,000 practitioners have been trained to utilize it. Shapiro noticed that as her eyes wandered from side to side while wandering through the woods one day, her unpleasant feelings faded. Then she discovered that patients had the same positive impact.

EMDR appears to be a risk-free treatment with no known adverse effects. Despite its growing popularity, mental health professionals question EMDR's efficacy. Most EMDR studies have only had a tiny number of participants, according to critics.

On the other hand, Researchers have published findings combining data from many trials to demonstrate the treatment's efficacy. Surveys have also found that people suffering from these problems have been completely healed, stable, and happy with a positive mindset and vision. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of EMDR?


  • Changes your way of believing positively: Somewhere in life, we suffer or go through an unwanted incident that impacts our lives in a way where we set our limits. EMDR helps in unlocking that barrier of limit.
  • Fast recovery from Trauma: It is the main objective of EMDR. The therapy has successfully recovered those who have been taking therapy sessions. People have been experiencing the change before and after the session. For example - they have been able to talk to other people openly.
  • A Stress manager: Even after the therapy session, if you have stress or if you are going to experience incoming stress, Then the therapy session has made your mind train the way that it's going to make that stress handle in such a way that the pressure won't burden you again.


  • Not a traditional method but a new way: While other therapies were created in the early stages, EMDR was built in 1989. So, there are peoples who like to go with the traditional method or the old way.
  • Doubts about the way it works: despite the positive results, People are still not clear about why it works and how it works.
  • It works only on Trauma and traumatic events: it does not work effectively on people born with mentally ill conditions or the conditions caused by injury. It only focuses on direct traumatic events and experiences.

Also, read

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

EMDR therapy has proven to be effective in treating PTSD and Trauma. It may also be able to help in the treatment of other mental conditions such as depression, Anxiety, panic disorders, and any types of phobias.

Some people prefer this treatment to prescription medications, which can result in unexpected adverse effects. On the other hand, some may find that EMDR therapy boosts the effectiveness of their drugs.

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