What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed by Francine Shapiro. It is a body-mind integrated therapy that has been proven to be highly effective for people who have experienced trauma.

Theory Behind EMDR

The Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model was developed by Francine Shapiro to explain how EMDR works.

The AIP model hypothesizes that trauma interferes with the brain’s processing and that during trauma, our brain processes and stores memories incorrectly. Often, the way your brain stores trauma memories can prevent healthy healing.

Newer memories can link up to a traumatic experiences in the brain and reinforce that negative experience over and over again. This can disrupt the links between your senses and memories. It can create greater sensitivities in your mind to things you saw, heard, smelled or felt during a trauma-related event.

Furthermore, this incorrect storage makes it so that past events seem to be in the present. This experience may be triggered by emotions, negative cognitions, and physical sensations.

How it Heals Trauma

EMDR uses guided instructions and bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tones, or taps) to access memory networks in order to move them from a place of emotional activation to a more rational, logical place. It can help release the brain’s natural healing processes.

EMDR reprocessing can help desensitize and heal the mental injury from a targeted memory. It can help you to gain distance between the memory so you will no longer feel like you’re reliving it, and associated thoughts and emotions become more manageable.

Evidence-Based Treatment for PTSD

EMDR is an effective, evidence-based form of treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is recognized for its effectiveness by the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs (US), and the World Health Organization. With EMDR, it is not necessary to discuss the details of a traumatic experience. It can effective with people from various ethnicities and backgrounds.


Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

Other Conditions that EMDR can be Used For

In addition to PTSD, EMDR can also be used for:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks and phobias
  • Depression
  • Chronic Pain
  • Substance Dependency
  • Various kinds of trauma (intergenerational, developmental, etc.)
  • Abuse and Assault (Physical, Emotional, and Sexual)
  • Grief and loss
  • Eating Disorders
  • Sleep problems associated with trauma

Advanced Trainings and Education

I have further education in specific EMDR techniques for the following conditions and situations:

  • Trauma-Related Dissociation – Trauma-Related Dissociation is a mental escape or a switching off when a person is so emotionally overwhelmed that they can’t cope. It can be “a process in which a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories, behaviors, physical sensations, or sense of identity.” (ISSTD, 2020)
  • Positive Affect Tolerance – If you find it difficult or uncomfortable to experience positive affect (emotions), you may benefit from increasing your positive affect tolerance. Low Positive Affect Tolerance is more common with people who experienced childhood emotional neglect or abuse.
  • Chronic Pain
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Grief

EMDR Video

Further Reading

EMDRIA https://www.emdria.org

EMDRIA is the international association for EMDR. It has guidelines for official trainings, reports on research, explanations of EMDR, as well as a place to look up EMDR trained therapists.

Getting Past Your Past – Francine Shapiro

This is a great book for people who aren’t mental health professionals. It has good explanations about trauma, EMDR, and techniques to use for trauma.

Related Information:

Related Blog Posts:

Published by Leona Westra

A Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) based in Surrey, BC with specialized training in Chronic Pain, Trauma, Nervous System Dysregulation, and Grief.

Discover more from Leona Westra, RCC

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading

%d bloggers like this: