In 1987, psychologist Dr.
Francine Shapiro made the chance observation
that eye movement can reduce the intensity of
disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions.
Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically,
and in a 1989 issue of the Journal of Traumatic
Stress, she reported success using EMDR to treat
victims of trauma. Since then, EMDR has
developed and evolved through the contributions
of therapists and researches all over the world.
Today, EMDR is a set of standardized protocols
that incorporates elements from many different
What Is The
Actual EMDR Session Like?
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client
to identify a specific problem as the focus of the
treatment session. The client calls to mind the
disturbing issue or event what was seen, felt,
heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and
beliefs are currently held about the event. The
therapist facilitates the directional movement of
the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of
the brain, while the client focuses on the
disturbing material, and the client just notices
whatever comes to mind without making any effort
to control direction or content. Each person will
process information uniquely, based on personal
experiences until the memory becomes less
disturbing and is associated with positive
thoughts and beliefs about one’s self; for
example, “I did the best I could.” During EMDR,
the client may experience intense emotions, but by
the end of the session, most people report a great
reduction in the level of disturbance.
How Long Does EMDR Take?
One or more sessions are required for the
therapist to understand the nature of the problem
and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate
treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR
more fully and provide an opportunity to answer
questions about the method. Once therapist and
client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a
specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may
begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90
minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances,
and the amount of previous trauma will determine
how many treatment sessions are necessary. EMDR
may be used within standard “talking” therapy, as
an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist,
or as a treatment all by itself.
Does EMDR Really Work?
Approximately 20 controlled studies have
investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies
have consistently found that EMDR effectively
decreases eliminates the symptoms of post
traumatic stress for the majority of clients.
Clients often report improvement in other
associated symptoms such as anxiety. The current
treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric
Association and the International Society for
Traumatic Stress designate EMDR as an effective
treatment for post traumatic stress. EMDR was also
found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs and Department of Health, the United
Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National
Council for Mental Health, and many other
international health and government agencies.
Research has also shown that EMDR can be efficient
and rapid treatment. For further references, a
bibliography of research may be found through EMDR
International Association’s web site, www.emdria.org
What Kind of Problems Can EMDR Treat?
has established EMDR as effective for post
traumatic stress. However, clinicians also
have reported success using EMDR in
treatment of the following conditions:
- Panic attacks
- Complicated grief
- Disturbing memories
- Pain disorders
- Eating disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Stress reduction
- Sexual and/ or
- Body dysmorphic