EMDR Therapy

Now offering EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based psychotherapy method that was developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro and has demonstrated success in helping some individuals heal from the emotional distress that stem from painful and traumatic life experiences. 

EMDR involves a series of experiential activities designed to help “unstuck” the brain’s system, allowing disturbing memories to be fully processed so that when negative incidents are remembered, although unpleasant, there’s no longer an overwhelmingly distressing experience. EMDR also consists of strengthening positive beliefs to ultimately replace the negative beliefs that are intertwined with and maintained by traumatic memories. For example, when recalling a painful memory, instead of believing “I’m unlovable” we believe and feel “I’m loveable.”

Is EMDR effective?

Several research studies found that EMDR was effective in:

  1. Reducing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive and anxiety symptoms for survivors of life-threatening cardiac events after a 4-week treatment (Arabia et al., 2011).
  2. Reducing PTSD, anxiety, and depressive symptoms for cancer patients (Capezzani et al., 2013).
  3. Reducing distressing emotions for people who experienced disturbing life events and don’t meet the criteria for PTSD (Cvetek, 2008).
  4. Reducing clinical symptoms for adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse (Edmond et al., 1999).
  5. Reducing PTSD symptoms for individuals who suffered sexual assault (Rothbaum, 1997).

EMDR has been compared to other psychotherapy approaches and meta-analysis research studies found:

  1. EMDR therapy is as effective as trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for adults with chronic PTSD (Bisson et al., 2013).
  2.  EMDR therapy is equally effective to exposure and other cognitive behavioral treatments for reducing PTSD symptoms (Bradley et al., 2005).

EMDR has been endorsed as an evidence-based psychotherapy model by various organizations, including: The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, The Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, and the World Health Organization.

What does EMDR consist of?

A trained EMDR therapist would first assess whether or not EMDR would be an appropriate intervention for a client before introducing this type of psychotherapy. After discussion and with clients’ agreeance, EMDR trained therapists guide clients through the phases of EMDR therapy in a controlled and standardized way, called the Adaptive Information Processing Model (Shapiro, 2007). This includes:

  • History and treatment planning: the therapist collects some information about the client’s distressing memories then works collaboratively with clients to create a treatment plan consisting of which specific incidents to work on as well as the associated negative beliefs and the positive beliefs.
  • Preparation: therapists teach clients skills to cope with emotional disturbance related to distressful memories that might be experienced outside of psychotherapy sessions.
  • Assessing incident(s): this involves a negative image, bodily sensations, and negative beliefs such as “I’m not good enough”, “it’s my fault” as well as positive beliefs, which might be “I’m enough”, “I did my best”, etc.
  • Processing the memory: clients focus on a traumatic memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation (eye movement, alternating taps, listening to tones), to lessen the distress of the trauma memory, and notice physical sensations in the body.
  • Strengthening positive beliefs: clients focus on a memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation (eye movement, alternating taps, listening to tones), to strengthen the positive belief.
  • Closure: when the targeted memory is not fully processed in a session, clients are encouraged to use specific techniques that have been taught during the Preparation stage to develop safety between sessions.
  • Evaluating treatment outcomes: therapist and client discuss the effects of EMDR and if there are other incidents or negative beliefs to work on.