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What is EMDR Therapy?

There are several different therapeutic approaches that our therapists are trained in and use in clinical practice. We are proud to have two Mental Health Therapists that are trained to offer EMDR as a therapeutic intervention. You may be wondering if EMDR is a good fit for you. This blog will provide an overview of EMDR and answer some questions you may have.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is an abbreviation for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a therapeutic intervention that was created by Francine Shapiro and is not a standard form of talk therapy. EMDR is based on the use of bilateral stimulation. Often times it is done by having the client move their eyes back and forth but could also be done by tapping the clients knees or having them hold buzzers in their hands. 

EMDR is often seen as a faster treatment when compared to other modalities. Though some people may only need a couple sessions, it is important to know that every person responds in a unique way and some people may need more.

EMDR, helps you learn from negative experiences from the past, works through triggers and memories that are distressing, and then incorporates an action plan so you can excel and function at your full potential.

What is EMDR used for?

Trauma is a devastating and distressing experience that many people experience in their lives. When a traumatic event occurs, our brain processes the information we see, feel, and hear and then stores it in our memory. When a person experiences a traumatic event, it can create limiting beliefs, negative emotions, flashbacks, nightmares, and a decrease in energy. After a traumatic event, a person may also run into triggers that can create an emotional reaction. EMDR is a therapeutic approach that is typically used to focus on negative feelings and recovery from traumatic events. Although it is specifically used for trauma, it can also be used to help improve negative life situations such as rejections, failures, and stress (Maxfield, 2008).

What to expect in your sessions

If you are thinking that EMDR might be a good fit for you, you may be wondering what your sessions would entail. EMDR uses an eight-phase approach and focuses on addressing the experiences that are stored in our memories (Maxfield, 2008). The full treatment approach involves working through past experiences that are forming the distressing issues and then creating a way to look at the memories. The eight phases include the following steps,

  1. Addressing your history, needs, and coming up with a plan
  2. Preparing you for the treatment
  3. Assessing which parts of your memory need to be attended to
  4. Desensitization
  5. Cognitive installation
  6. Body scan
  7. Closure
  8. Re-evaluation  

The evidence behind the protocol

When looking for a therapy model that may fit our needs, some of us want to know if there is evidence to support its effectiveness. Francine Shaprio shared that controlled research studies have proven that EMDR is an effective treatment for people with PTSD. Individuals who have suffered from PTSD and other traumatic life events have reported improvements in their daily functioning after receiving EMDR treatments (Shapiro, 2008) Specifically it is has shown the levels of self-efficacy and well-being were more prominent over anxiety and depression.

If you are interested in exploring EMDR for yourself, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information or with any questions you may have at


Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, Third Edition : Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures (Vol. Third edition). New York: The Guilford Press. Retrieved from

Hensley, B. (2015). An emdr therapy primer, second edition : From practicum to practice. Retrieved from

Maxfield, L. (2008). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. In F. T. Leong (Ed.), Encyclopedia of counseling (Vol. 1, pp. 199-202). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412963978.n65

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

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