Here are a list of questions about EMDR. For more
information, visit the EMDR Institute
What is EMDR?
How Was EMDR Developed?
How Does EMDR Work?
But Does EMDR Really Work?
What Is the Actual EMDR Session Like?
How Long Does EMDR Take?
What Kind of Problems Can EMDR Treat?
Does Insurance Cover EMDR?
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful
new method of doing psychotherapy. To date, EMDR has helped an
half million people of all ages relieve many different types of
psychological distress. Please visit
the EMDR website for more
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the
chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of
disturbing thoughts under certain conditions. Dr. Shapiro studied
this effect scientifically and, in 1989, she reported success using
EMDR to treat victims of trauma in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved through the contributions
of therapists and researchers all over the world. Today, EMDR is
a set of protocols that incorporate elements from many different
How Does EMDR
No one knows exactly how EMDR works. However, we do know that when
a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as
it does ordinarily. One moment becomes "frozen in time,"
and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the
first time because the images, sounds, smells and feelings haven't
changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect on the way
a person sees the world and relates to other people, interfering
with his or her life.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain
functions. Normal information processing is resumed, so following
EMDR session, the images, sounds, and feelings no longer are
relived when the event is brought to mind. What happened is still
but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar
goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally
dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based
therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new
and less distressing
But Does EMDR
A number of scientific studies have shown that EMDR is effective.
For example, the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology published research by Wilson, Becker, and Tinker in December
1995. This study of 80 subjects with post-traumatic stress demonstrated
that clients improved significantly with EMDR treatment, and further
study showed that this beneficial effect was maintained for at least
15 months. The findings from this and other studies indicate that
EMDR is highly effective and that results are long lasting. For
further references, a bibliography of research on EMDR may be obtained
What Is the Actual EMDR Session
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific
problem to be the focus of a treatment session. The client calls
to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard,
thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs currently are held
about that event. The therapist facilitates by directional movement
of the eyes or other bilateral 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
Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal
experience and values. It is important to understand that there
is no way for the client to do EMDR incorrectly! Sets of eye
movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing
and is associated with positive thought and beliefs about oneself;
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
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 also will discuss EMDR more fully and provide
an opportunity to answer any questions about the method. Once therapist
and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem,
the actual EMDR therapy can begin.
A typical EMDR session lasts about 90 minutes. The type of problem,
life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine
how many treatment sessions are necessary. A single session of
is sufficient in some cases. However, a typical course of treatment
is 3 to 10 sessions, performed weekly or every other week. EMDR
may be used within a standard "talking" therapy, as an
adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment
all by itself.
Kind of Problems Can EMDR Treat?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post-traumatic
stress. However, clinicians have reported success using EMDR in
treatment of the following conditions:
- Post-traumatic stress
- Panic attacks
- Performance anxiety
- Dissociative disorders
- Stress reduction
- Sexual and/or physical abuse
- Disturbing memoriesComplicated grief
- Anxiety disorders
Insurance Cover EMDR?
If your policy covers standard psychotherapy it most likely will
cover EMDR. Currently, the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA)
is working towards establishing a specific EMDR code for insurance