EMDR Therapy is an approach
to therapy that is particularly helpful for people who have experienced
some sort of traumatic experience. These experiences include
the things that we normally think of as traumatic like childhood
abuse, earthquakes, bank robberies, sexual assaults and so on, and
also the things that may be personally traumatizing like humiliations,
major disappointments, betrayals, bereavement and so on.
EMDR as an evidence-based psychotherapy is shown to effectively and efficiently eliminate the symptoms of stress and trauma. EMDR is approved by international health and government regulatory bodies throughout the world for its efficacy with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Acute Stress Disorder including (among others):
- The World Health Organization (WHO) (2013)
- The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISSTS) (2000 & 2008)
- American Psychiatric Association (APA) (2004 & 2009)
- The US Dept of Defense/Veterans Affairs (2004)
When I think of the car accident I often feel a wave of panic
and get a weird feeling in my belly. Is that normal?
Yes, that is very common. During an experience that is traumatizing
there is only a limited amount of the incident that the body and
mind can cope with at the time. Other aspects of the incident
will be stored as a traumatic memory. The mind and body will
remember a traumatic experience with thoughts, images, negative
beliefs (i.e. I am not safe or I am powerless), emotions, body sensations
and also sometimes sounds, smells and tastes.
How can EMDR help?
EMDR helps to process the memory. After EMDR a person will
remember she was in a bank robbery - but the therapy will hopefully
remove the fear and odd body sensations that she associates with
What will happen?
After hearing your story and helping to create a safe environment
(over a couple of sessions or perhaps over several sessions), your
therapist will ask a series of questions about the incident to help
you to recall the situation in his office. Then your therapist
will use eye movements, hand taps or sounds from headphones to help
you to process the memory.
Afterwards the therapist will help you to reinforce a positive
belief about yourself related to the incident. For example,
if you felt unsafe during the car accident, after processing the
memory with EMDR, the therapist will help to reinforce the belief,
“I am safe most of the time.”
Is EMDR used in any other way?
EMDR is helpful for a variety of issues.
EMDR can help to enhance self-esteem, self-efficacy and to boost
EMDR can help to reduce or eliminate anxiety or phobias. For example, related to driving a car or a fear of spiders or public speaking.
The DeTUR protocol is helpful to manage cravings for people with
a substance use problem or with a sexual
Enhancement was developed for athletes, performing artists and
business people. It helps to remove barriers that get in the
way of peak performance abilities. For example, it can help
a musician who is getting stuck on one part of a piece of music
or an actor who is having trouble remembering some lines.
It can help a business person to feel more confident with public
speaking or networking.
Enhancement is also helpful to improve day-to-day activities
that many of us experience. It can be helpful with dating
skills, overeating, time management, organizational skills and
It is also helpful for a variety of other issues. See the EMDRIA website
for more information.
Can any therapist use EMDR with me?
Only a Masters level therapist who has attended EMDRIA
- approved training can use EMDR.
I am EMDRIA Certified which means I have attended Level 1 and Level 2 training (now known as Basic Training), plus I have met with a certain number of clients and attended consultation with a senior EMDR clinician. I am also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant which means I now consult with other EMDR therapists as they work towards their own Certification. As well, I have attended further training in EMDR Peak Performance (with Sam Foster, one of the two creators of this approach), on EMDR and Attachment with Laurel Parnell, on Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Dr. Philippe Gauvreau, on Trauma and Dissociation with Jim Knipe, Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele and Kathy Martin, as well as the EMDRIA International Conference and the EMDR Canada conference each several times.
Virtual EMDR Therapy
Read about Virtual EMDR Therapy and what to look for when looking for an EMDR therapist to do virtual work.
EMDR Canada (EMDR-C) www.emdrcanada.org
EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) www.emdria.org
Also see Performance Enhancement, EMDR Therapy for Anxiety and EMDR as an Adjunct Therapy