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About EMDR


This information about EMDR has been collected by CareForTheTroops so that you can learn more about an approach that is one of the treatment approaches approved by the VA. It is available from many local therapists and has been successful in the treatment of trauma, PTSD, and some other symptoms as described below. We have developed a relationship, within the States CFTT operates, with Certified EMDR Therapists and they can be found by searching our Therapist Database on this website. There are other websites with more detailed information about EMDR than what CFTT could create on its own, so be sure to look for the collection of websites provided for your reference and research further down on this page.

A Brief Description of EMDR

EMDR HAP LogoEMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing is a rapid psychotherapy first used to treat PTSD. EMDR is a breakthrough new therapy approved for the treatment of PTSD and other issues. Discovered by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in the early 1990’s, this technique helps unlock information that has been stored inappropriately due to trauma and disturbances. It often works in a fraction of the time traditional therapies require. EMDR now has many clinical and non-clinical uses as shown below and is valued not only for PTSD treatment but also as an approach to enhancing performance & releasing creativity. A brief list of EMDR uses are:

·  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
·  Creativity Blocks
·  Unresolved Childhood Issues
·  Performance Enhancement
·  Anxiety
·  Grief / Loss

Is EMDR The Right Treatment For You?

“The continuing Global War on Terror and the present economic crises DEMANDS that we research and practice the most effective and efficient treatments for PTSD.”...quote from an Article prepared by CDR Beverly Ann Dexter, PhD USN (ret) for the EMDR International Association

The Article is titled “Providing EMDR Mental Health Services for the Military. Know The Facts!”. This Article outlines key talking points that support the use of the use of EMDR by VA and DOD facilities for PTSD treatment.

Want to know more? A PDF version of CDR Tucker's entire Article is available for download -- click here...

EMDR1 integrates elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. These include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies2. EMDR is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach as described below.

During EMDR1 the client attends to past and present experiences in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Then the client is instructed to let new material become the focus of the next set of dual attention. This sequence of dual attention and personal association is repeated many times in the session.

The Eight Phases of Treatment - A General Overview

There are eight phases during a "typical" treatment process. This description is provided to give you an general idea of what they are and to set expectations of what treatment may be like. Of course, each treatment is unique to the indivual and generalizations like this need to be kept in perspective as actual treatment may vary.

The first phase is a history taking session during which the therapist assesses the client's readiness for EMDR and develops a treatment plan. Client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing. These include recent distressing events, current situations that elicit emotional disturbance, related historical incidents, and the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations.

woman therapist During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has adequate methods of handling emotional distress and good coping skills, and that the client is in a relatively stable state. If further stabilization is required, or if additional skills are needed, therapy focuses on providing these. The client is then able to use stress reducing techniques whenever necessary, during or between sessions. However, one goal is not to need these techniques once therapy is complete.

In phase three through six, a target is identified and processed using EMDR procedures. These involve the client identifying the most vivid visual image related to the memory (if available), a negative belief about self, related emotions and body sensations. The client also identifies a preferred positive belief. The validity of the positive belief is rated, as is the intensity of the negative emotions.

After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously moving his/her eyes back and forth following the therapist's fingers as they move across his/her field of vision for 20-30 seconds or more, depending upon the need of the client. Athough eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus, therapists often use auditory tones, tapping, or other types of tactile stimulation. The kind of dual attention and the length of each set is customized to the need of the client. The client is instructed to just notice whatever happens. After this, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind. Depending upon the client's report the clinician will facilitate the next focus of attention. In most cases a client-directed association process is encouraged. This is repeated numerous times throughout the session. If the client becomes distressed or has difficulty with the process, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client resume processing. When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, the clinician asks him/her to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session, or a better one if it has emerged, and to focus on the incident, while simultaneously engaging in the eye movements. After several sets, clients generally report increased confidence in this positive belief. The therapist checks with the client regarding body sensations. If there are negative sensations, these are processed as above. If there are positive sensations, they are further enhanced.

male therapistIn phase seven, closure, the therapist asks the client to keep a journal during the week to document any related material that may arise and reminds the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.

The next session begins with phase eight, re-evaluation of the previous work, and of progress since the previous session. EMDR treatment ensures processing of all related historical events, current incidents that elicit distress, and future scenarios that will require different responses. The overall goal is produce the most comprehensive and profound treatment effects in the shortest period of time, while simultaneously maintaining a stable client within a balanced system.

After EMDR processing, clients generally report that the emotional distress related to the memory has been eliminated, or greatly decreased, and that they have gained important cognitive insights. Importantly, these emotional and cognitive changes usually result in spontaneous behavioral and personal change, which are further enhanced with standard EMDR procedures.

EMDR is approved by the American Psychological Association for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is recommended by the Department of Defense guidelines.

1Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

2Shapiro, F. (2002). EMDR as an Integrative Psychotherapy Approach: Experts of Diverse Orientations Explore the Paradigm Prism. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Books.

The content above is Copyright © 2004, EMDR Institute, Inc

Here's an EMDR Book of Interest for the General Public:

EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma

Order from Amazon...EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and TraumaI would characterize this book as very "lay-friendly". An authoritative introduction for professionals and laypeople and a casebook for trained EMDR clinicians. Chapters cover various types of traumas, phobias, children, addictions, grief, disease, future directions.

Click Here to get more details about the book and how to order from the EMDR Institute.
Click Here to order this book from Amazon.


EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma Francine Shapiro, PhD and Margot Silk Forrest, BasicBooks, New York, 1997.

Hailed as the most important method to emerge in psychotherapy in decades, EMDR has successfully treated psychological problems and illnesses-- from depression, phobias, and recurrent nightmares to post-traumatic stress disorders and grief-- in more than one million sufferers worldwide, and with a rapidity that almost defies belief. In this remarkable book, Dr. Francine Shapiro, the originator and developer of EMDR, explains how she created Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), how it works, and how it can help those who suffer from debilitating behaviors, anxiety, and stress. Describes a breakthrough therapy acclaimed by clinicians and supported by exhaustive research Includes an extensive list of EMDR resources and directions for finding and choosing one of the more than 20,000 trained EMDR therapists in the United States Features case histories of people whose lives have been transformed through EMDR. (This description obtained from the web site

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