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What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychological method that helps people to quickly process and heal from the emotional distress that lodges in their minds following traumatic incidents. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR in as few as three sessions, trauma survivors can experience benefits that once took years in more traditional forms of therapy (see the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, vol.13,1999).There are nearly 30,000 licensed EMDR practitioners worldwide who have successfully treated over two million clients. EMDR has strong empirical support and rapidly increasing recognition and acclaim. There are approved EMDR training courses at universities and medical centers such as the University of Colorado Health Sciences, Upstate Medical University, Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mount Sinai Medical Center. This application of EMDR to treating trauma and other specific upsetting experiences is what we like to call Therapeutic EMDR.

In addition to treating trauma, practitioners have discovered that EMDR also is very effective in helping people overcome more common "blocks" in thinking and negative emotions that prevent them from achieving a more satisfying life. Overcoming these obstacles to finding increased fulfillment in relationships, work, and play is what we call Life Enhancement EMDR.

Sometimes in traditional forms of therapy, clients making good progress can get stuck in some areas. Supplementary EMDR interventions may help the client break through that impasse and continue moving forward in the therapy. We call this Adjunctive EMDR.

What does EMDR stand for?

Eye Movement: All forms of EMDR use "bilateral stimulation." Early clinical research showed that alternating eye movement accelerates the clearing of stress symptoms and opens the brain up to new, more productive ways of thinking and feeling. The mechanism by which this takes place may involve guiding the brain gently into optimal "duel attention," to both internal and external information. More recent research shows that other forms of stimulation also work well, such as alternating left and right taps, tones, or music specially designed to move the brain's awareness back and forth between the right and left sides. The effect of EMDR in stimulating new and more productive ways of thinking makes it useful for enhancing life in a wide variety of ways.

Desensitization: refers to the removal of the emotional disturbance associated with a traumatic memory, or the removal of any negative feeling that blocks one's progress in life.

Reprocessing: refers to the replacement of unhealthy, negative beliefs and feelings with more positive ones. The unhealthy mental states which are reprocessed may be those associated with a traumatic memory, or any negative mental state that prevents one from attaining a more fulfilling life.

Professional and governmental endorsements of EMDR

EMDR has been endorsed in multiple evidence-based practice guidelines from respected professional and governmental organizations, for example:

1) The United States Department of Defense and Veteran’s Administration: VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress awarded EMDR the highest level of recommendation, citing it,  along with Cognitive Therapy , Exposure Therapy and  Stress Inoculation Training as having "significant benefit" for the reduction of symptom severity and improved global functioning. (

2) The American Psychological Association's Division of Clinical Psychology : placed EMDR, exposure therapy, and stress inoculation therapy on a list of empirically supported treatments, as "probably efficacious for civilian PTSD", no other therapies were judged to be empirically supported by controlled research for PTSD populations (Chambless, D.L.,et al (1998) Update on empirically validated therapies II. The Clinical Psychologist, 51, 3-16.)

3) International Society  for Traumatic Stress Studies: EMDR was found to be an efficacious treatment for PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) indicated by the highest scientific standard based upon a review of seven published, randomized, controlled studies with overall large effect sizes  (Foa, E. B., Keane, T. M., & Friedman, M. J. (2000), Guidelines for treatment of PTSD.  Journal of Traumatic Stress, 13, 539-588)

4) The United Kingdom Department of Health (2001): their evidence based treatment guidelines recommend EMDR as an efficacious treatment for PTSD (United Kingdom Department of Health, 2001,  Treatment choice in psychological therapies and counselling:  Evidence based clinical practice guideline.  London,

5) Israeli National Council for Mental Health: recommends EMDR in their guidelines for treatment of victims of terror (Belich, A., Kotler, M., Kutz, E., & Shaley, A. (2002). A position paper of the Israeli National Council for Mental Health: Guidelines for the assessment and professional intervention with terror victims in the hospital and in the community.)

6) Northern Ireland Department of Health: recommends EMDR in their evidence based treatment guidelines (Northern Ireland Department of Health. (2001). Treatment choice in psychological therapies and counselling evidence based clinical practice guideline. London ,

7) United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): EAP administrators endorse the therapeutic use of EMDR for their agents who have been through violent events ("The FBI has found EMDR to be extremely effective when used on individuals exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which can be tied to a specific traumatic event. The bottom line as I see it is that it works." ~ Charles McCormick, FBI Administrator, Employee Assistance Program) 

"The FBI has found EMDR to be extremely effective when used on individuals exhibiting symptoms of post traumatic stress, which can be tied to a specific traumatic event. The bottom line as I see it is that it works."

-- Charles McCormick, Unit Chief, Federal Bureau of Investigation Administrator, Employee Assistance Program
"EMDR is...ideal for those who have been unable to forget past traumatic life events, as it allows for a rapid processing of even deeply rooted memories, giving individuals back control of their lives and their emotions."

-- Dusty Bowencamp, RN, CTR, Disaster Mental Health, American Red Cross
"During the last 20 years, I have been working with emergency services personnel, who have been stressed by the traumatic events they handle in the workplace. For many, EMDR has been one of the most effective therapeutic interventions available."

-- Jeffrey T. Mitchell, Ph.D., President, International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Health Services, University of Maryland.