Category Archives: EMDR

Unlocking the Healing Power of EMDR: How This Groundbreaking Therapy is Helping Individuals Overcome Trauma


Written By Barry Herbach

I have been doing EMDR therapy for over 20 years, it’s the reason that I decided to dedicate my life to being a therapist. Before I learned how to do EMDR, I was frustrated with the limitations of talk therapy. EMDR allowed me to work much faster and see very quick results. Instead of patients taking years to get better it took months and sometimes weeks. I still see the benefits of talk therapy, but I always try to incorporate EMDR when I can.  

 What is EMDR 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of therapy that has been gaining recognition in recent years. The therapy involves a series of guided eye movements while the patient recalls traumatic experiences, with the goal of reducing distress and reprocessing traumatic memories. EMDR can be conducted via zoom, making it a convenient and an effective option for those who prefer to receive therapy from the safety and comfort of their own homes. 

 Unprocessed trauma in the brain can lead to various mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Therefore, addressing traumatic experiences and processing them is crucial to prevent long-term negative effects on mental health. EMDR can be a helpful therapy for individuals struggling with trauma and its associated mental health conditions. EMDR aims to help individuals process and integrate traumatic memories, thereby reducing the distress associated with them and improving overall well-being. 

 Research has shown that EMDR can be an effective treatment for various psychological disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and phobias. It has also been found to be effective for patients who were suffering from unresolved grief and guilt. EMDR can be helpful not only for individuals who have experienced a single traumatic event but also for those who have experienced complex trauma, such as childhood abuse or neglect. It can help address the various layers of trauma that may be present.  

Example of how Reprocessing works 

I have found that when people experience trauma, they often create faulty narratives about their issues. This is one reason talk therapy may have a poor success rate when dealing with trauma. Patients come to see therapists with the wrong narrative, and these are the issues that get addressed and get worked on. But what if the therapist and patient are working on the wrong issue? 

For example, I worked with a war veteran who had not had a good night’s sleep in over 20 years. He felt so unsafe he slept with a flashlight every night. He also suffered from depression. As we conducted EMDR therapy, he recalled two instances when he had almost faced death. While re-experiencing these events, it was as if my office lit up, and his depression seemed to vanish. He reexperienced the event with excitement and detail. He described hanging off a ship while avoiding gun fire. He was proud and excited how he escaped death. He described in detail and with excitement how he felt alive. What became clear was that he craved the feeling of danger, as it made him feel alive. Once we identified his real issue, we were able to work on finding alternative ways for him to feel alive. After just one EMDR session, he experienced his first night of restful sleep and no longer needed his flashlight. 

 For twenty years, this man had been focusing on feeling safe in therapy, only to become more depressed. By addressing the correct underlying issue, we were able to make a breakthrough and improve his well-being. 

 How Desensitization works 

During an EMDR session, the patient focused on a memory of a friend dying in his arms while following and focusing on an object with his eyes. As the session progressed, the perception of that traumatic memory began to change, and the unpleasant feelings and negative thinking associated with the memory faded. This result was a feeling of closure and a decrease in emotional intensity.  The war vet not only reprocessed the memory, but the memory no longer haunted him. He remembered the event, but he no longer felt the charge. 


EMDR is a psychotherapy technique that is an effective treatment for a range of psychological disorders. While the underlying mechanisms of the therapy are still being investigated, research has shown that EMDR helps patients process and integrate traumatic experiences more effectively, reducing distress and improving overall well-being. Despite some criticisms, EMDR remains a popular and effective therapeutic option for those struggling with trauma-related symptoms. 


Can Eye Movements Treat Trauma?

What I consider a very balanced article about EMDR.

Can Eye Movements Treat Trauma?
From Scientific America


Imagine you are trying to put a traumatic event behind you. Your therapist asks you to recall the memory in detail while rapidly moving your eyes back and forth, as if you are watching a high-speed Ping-Pong match. The sensation is strange, but many therapists and patients swear by the technique, called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Although skeptics continue to question EMDR’s usefulness, recent research supports the idea that the eye movements indeed help to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Much of the EMDR debate hinges on the issue of whether the eye movements have any benefit or whether other aspects of the therapeutic process account for patients’ improvement. The first phase of EMDR resembles the start of most psychotherapeutic relationships: a therapist inquires about the patient’s issues, early life events, and desired goals to achieve rapport and a level of comfort. The second phase is preparing the client to mentally revisit the traumatic event, which might involve helping the person learn ways to self-soothe, for example. Finally, the memory processing itself is similar to other exposure-based therapies, minus the eye movements. Some experts argue that these other components of EMDR have been shown to be beneficial as part of other therapy regimens, so the eye movements may not deserve any of the credit. New studies suggest, however, that they do.

In a January 2011 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, for example, some patients with PTSD went through a session of EMDR while others completed all the components of a typical EMDR session but kept their eyes closed rather than moving them. The patients whose session included eye movements reported a more significant reduction in distress than did patients in the control group. Their level of physiological arousal, another common symptom of PTSD, also decreased during the eye movements, as measured by the amount of sweat on their skin.

One of the ways EMDR’s eye movements are thought to reduce PTSD symptoms is by stripping troubling memories of their vividness and the distress they cause. A study in the May 2012 Behaviour Research and Therapy examined the effectiveness of using beep tones instead of eye movements during EMDR. The researchers found that eye movements outperformed tones in reducing the vividness and emotional intensity of memories.

Those studies relied on self-reports of symptom severity, however, so researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands sought more objective confirmation of a change in vividness by also measuring participants’ reaction times to fragments of a previously viewed picture. The work, published online in July 2012 in Cognition and Emotion, compared two groups of participants who had committed one detailed picture to memory. When asked to recall the picture and focus on it mentally, one group was instructed to perform eye movements. That group had slower reaction times to the familiar picture fragments in a subsequent memory test, and subjects reported that the vividness of the recalled pictures had decreased.

These studies and others from the past several years have helped validate EMDR—so much so that the American Psychiatric Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the Departments of Defense and of Veterans Affairs have deemed it an effective therapy.

Yet how it works remains unclear. Chris Lee, a psychologist at Murdoch University in Australia and co-author of the January 2011 study, says a common theory is that EMDR takes advantage of memory reconsolidation: every time we recall a memory, it is changed subtly when we file it away again. For instance, parts of the memory may be left out, or new ideas and feelings are stored alongside of it. Making eye movements during recall, Lee explains, may compete with the recollection for space in our working memory, which causes the trauma memory to be less intense when recalled again.