Frequently Asked Questions about EMDR Therapy

What Does “EMDR” Stand For?
EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.”

What is EMDR?
EMDR is a type of therapy used to treat trauma related disorders and emotional distress caused by upsetting life experiences. EMDR uses standardized protocols with bilateral stimulation to facilitate the adaptive processing of traumatic experiences, allowing psychological healing to naturally occur.

What Kinds of Problems Does EMDR Treat?
EMDR can be used to treat trauma related disorders (like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) caused by childhood abuse and neglect, rape, sexual assault, combat-related trauma, critical incident stress (in first responders), natural disasters, motor vehicle accidents, etc. EMDR has also been effective in treating specific phobias, social anxiety, performance anxiety, chronic pain, generalized anxiety disorder and distress from infertility. EMDR can be applied to many life experiences that cause emotional distress that don’t meet the criteria for PTSD. For instance, EMDR could be useful in processing the discovery of an affair, overcoming the fear of public speaking or dealing with the impact of bullying in childhood.

How is EMDR Different Than “Talk Therapy?”
One thing that is different about EMDR therapy is that the therapist acts more as a guide and does not give much feedback. Instead, EMDR enables clients to quickly come to their own insights without much feedback from the therapist. Clients also do not have to discuss in detail the trauma in order to overcome the event. In general EMDR works much more quickly than other therapies. Also, other than self-care there are not homework assignments in-between sessions.

Does EMDR work?
While there are never any guarantees of treatment outcomes, EMDR is a highly evidenced-based therapy and many studies have demonstrated its effectiveness. As the EMDR Institute website summarizes, “More than thirty positive controlled outcome studies have been conducted on EMDR therapy.  Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.  Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy.  Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.”

Where Can I Learn More About The Effectiveness of EMDR Therapy?
The following websites provide more information about the research demonstrating EMDR Therapy’s applications and effectiveness:

How Do I Know If EMDR Therapy Is A Good Treatment Option For Me?
The best way to know if EMDR could be a treatment option for you is to meet with an EMDR certified therapist.

Where Can I Learn More About EMDR?
Websites that offer more information about EMDR include:
You can also read an interview with the developer of EMDR, Dr Francine Shapiro: