What is EMDR?

EMDR is an effective and scientifically validated, psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro in 1989 EMDR is used to resolve troubling symptoms, such as:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Flashbacks
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Insecurity
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anger

Variations of this proven approach can also help build personal strengths, improve performance, treat behavioral and chemical addictions and manage pain.

EMDR can significantly shorten the length of therapy and enhance results. Most people immediately feel relief in the specific area addressed, even if the traumatic memory has been haunting them for decades. Relief is long-lasting.

EMDR can’t change what happened to you, but it can help change the way you feel about it, stop unexpected reactions, and enable you to learn and grow from the experience.

A skilled, spiritually sensitive EMDR therapist can help you tap your spiritual resources and strengths to promote healing of mind, body, and spirit.

What does E.M.D.R. stand for?

  • Eye Movement – Initially, Dr. Shapiro believed that eye movements were necessary for the treatment. Now we know that the beneficial effects are also facilitated by right/left alternating stimulation such as taps, tones, or vibrations.

  • Desensitization refers to removing the emotional disturbance associated with the traumatic memory. (I.e., Instead of just learning to control your reaction, the goal of EMDR treatment is to remove the need to react.)
  • Reprocessing replaces the unhealthy, negative beliefs associated with traumatic memories with more healthy, positive beliefs.

How does EMDR help?

Traditional therapies that depend on logical thinking to resolve feelings may have limited success in treating trauma victims. Sometimes these feelings defy logic. For instance, a woman abused as a child may know in her mind that the abuse was not her fault and that she couldn’t have stopped it. However, she may continue to feel guilt, shame, or anxiety.

God designed our bodies and minds to heal. If you cut yourself, natural healing begins immediately, but if the wound is not cleaned and treated, it may get infected, and the infection can invade your whole body. Similarly, unresolved emotional trauma may fester and cause emotional, physical, and spiritual pain. If the trauma was too personal, too severe, or you were not prepared (such as childhood traumas), your brain’s natural mechanism for processing disturbing events may be unable to resolve it adequately. Unresolved emotional trauma can last a lifetime and can’t be covered up with willpower, denial, anger, good deeds, or any defense mechanisms. EMDR helps remove the sting from old trauma so that God’s natural healing can occur.

When you have unprocessed trauma, your body may seem to react without engaging your brain. These ‘reactions out of nowhere’ are BODY MEMORIES of the traumatic experience set off by reminders or ‘triggers’ related to trauma. They usually show up as irrational anxiety, resistance, fear, or inappropriate behaviors. These conditioned responses can lead to guilt and feelings of failure.

Your EMDR therapist will encourage you to notice negative body memories and use them to identify and desensitize related offending memories or irrational beliefs. You remain awake and alert while your therapist helps you find your God-given strengths and resources to process your troubling past. Instead of trying to reason the problem away, EMDR engages the unconscious mind, which controls the body memories, to find the answers. The result is rational, reasonable, positive, and long-lasting.

Has EMDR been researched?

EMDR is one of the most researched and validated treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many other disorders since Dr. Francine Shapiro’s first study in 1989 with victims of rape, molestation, and Vietnam veterans. For a summary of some of the EMDR research, visit

EMDR has now been endorsed by the World Health Organization (2013); American Psychiatric Association (2004); and the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense (2017), and more.

Daniel Amen, MD, author of NY Times Best Seller, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (1998); and Healing the Hardware of the Soul (2002), recommends EMDR in his clinics and says, “EMDR is a brain treatment that actually changes the brain function.” Dr. Amen uses SPECT scans (pictured) to show how EMDR changes a person’s brain with PTSD.

Bessel van der Kolk, MD, Director of Trauma Research at Harvard University, and author of The Body Keeps the Score (2015), used PET scans to map brain activity during traumatic flashbacks and during EMDR processing (1996). His research showed that parts of the emotional right brain are overactive, causing troubling body sensations and over-reaction. EMDR appears to help patients use both the right and left brain, uniting reason and emotion, to get traumas unstuck so they can be stored as ‘just memories’  without the emotional baggage.

Brain Image before EMDR shows many large gray patches in multiple areas of the brain
Brain scan after EMDR treatment shows only a few small gray patches

How long does EMDR therapy take?

The number of EMDR sessions required for healing depends upon your specific problem and the complexity of your personal history. Most people begin feeling relief immediately, even if the traumatic event has been haunting them for decades. In most cases, EMDR treatment is significantly shorter than traditional therapy.

People who have experienced many early childhood traumas will likely need more sessions to complete treatment. Young children who are abused or neglected have minimal experience and knowledge to help them understand life and relationships. Inaccurate beliefs that develop at that time are usually dysfunctional, and they may last a lifetime. These inaccurate beliefs may include: “I can’t count on anyone.” “I am worthless.” “I have to be perfect.” “Sex (or physical power) is the key to success.” “I can’t do anything right.” EMDR can help heal those underlying inaccurate and dysfunctional beliefs.

What disorders can EMDR treat?

EMDR was initially used only for PTSD but has been found to be extremely valuable in treating a wide range of problems. Some conditions, such as attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADD, ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and some types of mood and thought disorders, may require continued medical treatment. Still, EMDR can usually significantly reduce impact by addressing the emotional trauma caused by living with these conditions.

A wide variety of experiences can cause lasting negative effects. It is not just the horrific experiences like rape, incest, murder, and war that leave life-long wounds. Even seemingly insignificant or ordinary events like embarrassment, rejection, criticism, or bullying can shape a person’s future. Children may be well fed and cared for but still suffer from wounds of neglect, lack of affection, and lack of guidance. People tend to carry the effects of these problems into their marriages and their work. When early life experiences are reprocessed and events cleared of emotional content, most marriage and employment problems improve.

More advanced EMDR protocols are amazingly effective in treating addictions such as smoking, substance abuse, shoplifting, compulsive gambling, sex addiction, hoarding, love addictions, and obsessions with porn and video games. Another advanced protocol can resolve many character and attachment disorders.

Some conditions that can be effectively treated with EMDR include:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Panic attacks
  • Pain management
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Grief
  • Complications of ADD/ ADHD / OCD/ Bipolar
  • Trauma / PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Chemical addictions
  • Behavioral addictions
  • Marital discord
  • Anger resolution
  • Attachment disorder