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What is EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing?


Over the past few decades, numerous psychotherapies have been developed in an attempt to assist individuals in overcoming their presenting concerns. One such therapy that has received particular interest in recent years is EMDR.


What is EMDR?

EMDR is a new form of psychotherapy used to reduce the impact of experiences from one’s past that intrude on his or her present life.  Although the trauma may have taken place a long time ago, sometimes individuals continue to feel the impact of it many years later, manifesting as symptoms like anxiety, flashbacks, depression, and low self-esteem. Utilizing EMDR, the therapist helps guide the client in concentrating on disturbing memories or emotions, while simultaneously guiding the client’s eyes rapidly back and forth with the therapist’s hand. This eye movement, according to EMDR research, seems to help the client speed up the healing process.


What does EMDR stand for?

Eye movement: Research on EMDR argues that the beneficial effects of the approach stems from the stimulation of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Eye movements and bilateral alternating taps are both ways to achieve this.

Desensitization: Desensitization refers to the removal of all emotional disturbances that are associated with a traumatic memory (such as flashbacks, anxiety, and depression).

Reprocessing: Refers to the replacement of a negative belief associated with a traumatic memory with a positive, healthy belief.


When is EMDR utilized?

According to EMDR research, there are two types of traumas that individuals go through: Big Trauma and Little Trauma. Big Trauma includes major horrific events, such as rape, death of a loved one, and combat. Little Trauma, on the other hand, includes everyday traumas, such as internalized childhood messages. EMDR has shown to be useful for both types of traumas. EMDR has been used to address many concerns, which include (but are not limited to):


PTSD Grief
Sexual Abuse Depression
Anxiety Performance Anxiety
Phobias Panic Attacks



Is EMDR appropriate for everyone?

EMDR is not appropriate for individuals that are not willing to tolerate highly distressing emotions. To determine appropriateness, an EMDR therapist will have to conduct a thorough assessment to evaluate how EMDR can be used as part of one’s overall treatment.


Want to incorporate EMDR as part of your treatment approach?

If you have tried different therapeutic approaches in your counselling journey without any success and want to give EMDR a try, I encourage you to contact an EMDR therapist to determine whether it can be helpful in attaining your therapeutic goals.


For more FAQs on EMDR, visit


Farah Premji, MSc., is a trained EMDR therapist and is experienced in many other areas. For more information on Farah and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.