healed brain

EMDR: How It Helps People Cope with Trauma & PTSD

While many people are unfamiliar with EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, it has actually been in use for several decades now. It was developed in the 1980s as a means of alleviating the psychological stress caused by past traumatic events, treating military personnel who have PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is now one of the primary therapies the Veterans Administration helps treat vets with trauma and it has since been adapted to help with many other forms of trauma. 

EMDR in a Nutshell

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves guided eye movements or other bilateral stimulation and resolution of past traumatic experiences. As you’re directed to safely recall the events, feelings and thoughts that cause you to experience psychological stress, we will utilize specific eye movements and/or technology like hand buzzers to help  minimize the effect that traumatic memories have on your emotional state, thoughts and even unconscious beliefs. Research is still being done to further explore exactly how and why EMDR and eye movements help to manage psychological stress.


The basis for EMDR is Adaptive Information Processing Theory. Traumatic memories are of those which are not adaptively processed and can live in the body and the mind.  EMDR replicates REM sleep, the process through which the brain naturally integrates and processes memories.  Using specific eye movements or other kinds of bilateral stimulation during EMDR, traumatic memories can become simply memories. Over time, the memories will produce less of an emotional reaction and people begin to think more positively about themselves.    

Benefiting from Therapy

Once the effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy was seen in soldiers and others with post-traumatic stress disorder, therapists began adapting the therapy. They found that it could be used to help alleviate a number of other mental health issues and psychological disorders, including traumas which happen during childhood, even when the person may have little conscious memory of the trauma. Often trauma is stored in the body and held in negative self-beliefs, and EMDR addresses these directly. After going through the 8-step therapy, people with PTSD or other traumas no longer have difficulty talking about their past experiences. They can talk more freely about the memories, which means other types of therapy will also be more effective. Successful completion of the process also helps people function better on a day to day basis.

Specifically, EMDR is currently used to treat people suffering from:

  • PTSD
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug and alcohol addiction
  • Complex and developmental trauma
  • Physical and sexual trauma