Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

What Is


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b). Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing model posits that EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. During EMDR therapy the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Therapist directed lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus but a variety of other stimuli including hand-tapping and audio stimulation are often used (Shapiro, 1991). Shapiro (1995, 2001) hypothesizes that EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing of the traumatic memory network, so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations are thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights. EMDR therapy uses a three pronged protocol: (1) the past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction are processed, forging new associative links with adaptive information; (2) the current circumstances that elicit distress are targeted, and internal and external triggers are desensitized; (3) imaginal templates of future events are incorporated, to assist the client in acquiring the skills needed for adaptive functioning.

Military Person

At Sherman, we use EMDR for many different treatments. Our EMDR Specialists utilize EMDR to get to the root cause of PTSD, Trauma, or an event that could cause one to be depressed or anxious in their life. We have found that EMDR can certainly be an effective tool for many. EMDR is utilized for any distress for disturbing life experiences.

The Phases Of EMDR:

Phase 1– The first phase is information gathering, and assessment of the client’s readiness and development of a treatment plan. Also during this phase, the therapist identifies possible targets for the EMDR processing.

Phase 2– During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several ways of managing emotional distress.

Phases 3-6– In phases three to six, a target is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures. These involve the client identifying three things:

  • The vivid visual image related to the memory
  • A negative belief about self
  • Related emotions and body sensations

In addition, the client identifies a positive belief. The therapist helps the client rate the positive belief as well as the intensity of the negative emotions. After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously engaging in EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation. These sets may include eye movements, taps, or tones. The type and length of these sets is different for each client. At this point, the EMDR client is instructed to just notice whatever spontaneously happens.

Phase 7– This phase is used to have the client keep a log of what happens throughout the week that may be relevant to their distress. It serves as a reminder on how to calm themselves down with the techniques learned.

Phase 8– Phase 8 is the phase and will be a follow up to determine the clients progress they have made, and address future events that may require different responses.

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