A lot of people have heard of EMDR but don’t really know what it is. A common question I hear is, “Is it that eye movement thing?”

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy method that helps the brain and body process information that is painful, disturbing or traumatic. It was created by psychologist, Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987 after her observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of emotion and negative thoughts, when focusing on something painful.

When a person goes through something traumatic the brain/body stores the sensory experience through images, emotions and body memories, which impacts on their perceptions of themselves and others and, therefore, their actions. Unhealed trauma can feel “frozen” in the body where the person may feel as if they are re-living the initial experience upon remembering it. EMDR helps the brain reprocess the information so by the end of therapy people feel brighter, lighter and more self-confident. Then the client is living life from conscious responding rather than a reactive place from unhealed experiences.

EMDR has been scientifically studied and has shown to be a valid treatment approach for trauma. EMDR also is helpful for issues such as eating disorders, anxiety/panic, phobias, OCD, grief, compulsive behaviors and depression, etc. Indicators that EMDR may be helpful for you is if you 1) still feel a high level of disturbance to a painful experience, 2) feel “stuck” with dealing with something in life like divorce or loss and can’t get past it, and 3) if you have the thought, “I don’t want to feel like this anymore” yet it is it hard to move on.

A phrase that I hear most often at the end of EMDR treatment is, “I’m not sure how that works but it is amazing!”

For further resources, contact www.emdr.com.


Lori Haas, LCSW, CEDS, is an EMDR-trained psychotherapist specializing in the areas of trauma, eating disorders and anxiety. She is a member of the Ahwatukee Foothills Behavioral Health Network. Contact her at (602) 332-4360.


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