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What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy technique developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It is a form of therapy that is used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including trauma and attachment wounds. EMDR Therapy has been recognized by many professional organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association, as an effective form of psychotherapy trauma, PTSD, and other mental health concerns. 

Trauma is a distressing event or experience that overwhelms an individual's ability to cope. Trauma can result from a wide range of experiences, including natural disasters, accidents, violence, or abuse. Attachment wounds, on the other hand, refer to the psychological scars that result from disruptions or failures in the attachment bond between a child and their primary caregiver. These wounds can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships later in life. At RI, we use EMDR therapy to address how past experiences are impacting us in our current life, allowing you to reach full potential. 

EMDR is a type of therapy that helps individuals process traumatic memories and reprocess negative beliefs about themselves that may have been formed as a result of those experiences. The therapy involves a structured approach to processing traumatic memories and involves three phases:

History and Treatment Planning: The therapist will begin by taking a detailed history of the individual's experiences and symptoms to identify any traumatic events or attachment wounds that may need to be addressed. The therapist and individual will work together to develop a treatment plan that outlines the goals of therapy and the specific memories that will be targeted.

Preparation: The preparation phase involves helping the individual develop the skills necessary to manage the emotions and sensations that may arise during the processing phase. This may include relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, and other coping strategies.

Processing: The processing phase involves the use of bilateral stimulation, which can be achieved through eye movements, sounds, or physical sensations, to help the individual reprocess traumatic memories. The therapist will guide the individual through the memory while providing bilateral stimulation, which can help desensitize the individual to the memory and reduce its emotional intensity. This phase also involves identifying and reprocessing negative beliefs about oneself that may have developed as a result of the traumatic experience.

EMDR is based on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, which suggests that traumatic memories become stuck or frozen in the brain when they are not properly processed. This can lead to symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. EMDR works by helping the individual process the traumatic memory and integrate it into their existing memory network in a more adaptive way.

One of the unique features of EMDR is the use of bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation is believed to help integrate the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which can lead to increased processing and integration of traumatic memories. The use of bilateral stimulation could include eye movements, audio, butterfly taps, or what we use most commonly at RI are tappers (devices that vibrate back and forth in each hand). 

Reach out to us if you are interested in learning more about EMDR Therapy.

Rooting for you,


Disclaimer: This is in no way a replacement for a therapeutic relationship or mental health services. This is for educational purposes only and should be in used only in conjunction in working with a licensed mental health professional. Reading this blog or responding to it does not constitute a provider-patient relationship. If you are looking for a local mental health professional feel free to schedule a callback to request an appointment or search Therapy Den or Psychology Today for local therapists in your area. If this is a mental health emergency and you need immediate assistance please call 911 or your county’s crisis line to speak to a mental health professional.