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What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of therapy that helps people heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. EMDR therapy has been extensively researched and has demonstrated effectiveness for trauma.

EMDR has been found to be effective across many areas, including:

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias

  • Chronic Illness and medical issues

  • Depression and bipolar disorders

  • Dissociative disorders

  • Eating disorders

  • Grief and loss

  • Pain

  • Performance anxiety

  • Personality disorders

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma and stress related issues

  • Sexual assault

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Substance abuse and addiction

  • Violence and abuse


How does it work?

Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyses and controls behaviour and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, some traumatic experiences may not be processed without help. 


Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume.  The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.”

How is EMDR different from other therapies? 

One of the advantages of EMDR therapy is that, unlike some other therapy approaches, it does not require you to talk in detail about the distressing issue. EMDR enables the brain to access its natural healing process rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue.  For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.

Client experiences of EMDR

This video, produced by the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), features clients talk, in their own words, about their personal experiences of EMDR Therapy.


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