What is EMDR?

Annie Miller TherapyBlog

EMDR is a type of therapy that was developed to treat PTSD and to help clients cope with traumatic memories. The theory behind EMDR states that we have maladaptive tendencies for coping with traumatic or disturbing life events. Remembering a traumatic memory is sometimes so disturbing that it feels like we are actually experiencing it. These memories can have a lasting effect and can color the way we view our current relationships and experiences.


EMDR uses eye movements, sound or pulses to stimulate both sides of the brain, called bilateral stimulation. Focusing on a disturbing event or traumatic memory, along with the bilateral stimulation can help us to re-process the memory so it doesn’t feel as upsetting. It allows us to see and remember disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.

During an EMDR session, the client will explore thoughts, feelings and body sensations attached to a specific memory. The therapist will use hand motions, a light bar, vibrations, or auditory stimuli while the client recalls the event or memory. In successful EMDR, disturbing feelings or thoughts decrease in intensity.

For example, someone who experiences an assault may remember the incident with shame, self-disgust and fear. Through successful EMDR, a client can remember the same incident with empowerment and strength.

EMDR can be used to treat: PTSD, phobias, depression, childhood trauma, stress and other psychological concerns.