What is EMDR?

What is EMDR?


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and was discovered by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987.  It is an evidence based practice for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and has been demonstrated to be effective with a number of conditions, including: panic, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, complex trauma, performance anxiety, grief and loss, amongst others.

The theoretical model underlying EMDR is called the Adaptive Information Processing Model.  This model asserts that there are experiences in our lives that may be overwhelming, traumatic, terrorizing or otherwise distressful that get “stuck” in our brains.  These experiences that get “stuck”, may lead to distressing psychological and physical symptoms.


A helpful metaphor is that to a time in which you ate too much and had difficulties digesting.  When we can’t digest our food, we experience discomfort and pain (i.e., disease).  Similarly, when our life experiences get “stuck” we also experience discomfort and pain.  EMDR is believed to work with the brain’s natural capacities to heal, or digest these experiences, so that we can function in an adaptive manner again.

EMDR follows a thorough treatment protocol in its application.  “Stuck” experiences are identified as targets for reprocessing, and the emotional, cognitive, and somatic aspects of these experiences are identified.  Bilateral stimulation (BLS) is used in the form of eye movements, bilateral tapping, or bilateral audio tones, which has been demonstrated to be impactful on the brain’s ability to process this unprocessed information.

If you are a mental health professional interested in learning EMDR, Basic Training is your first step.  Basic training consists of 20 hours of lecture, 20 hours of practicum, and 10 hours of consultation.  It is important to complete your training with an EMDRIA approved instructor, as courses which are not EMDRIA approved do not meet the requirements or standards that EMDRIA has established.  To learn more about training and registration click here.