What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.”

EMDR is a robust psychological approach that utilizes a process called Bilateral Stimulation to accelerate the brain’s natural ability to adapt and grow by forming new neurological connections (called neuroplasticity).

EMDR is based upon the philosophy called, Adaptive Information Processing, which posits that current distress is the result of negative experiences or traumas that became “frozen in time” or “crystalized” in the brain during the original event(s).

Comedienne Whitney Cummings, interviewed by Sara Bliss for yahoo!life described her understanding of how triggers work after undergoing EMDR Therapy: 

“The way my therapist explained it to me is our brain takes in billions of pieces of information in a second. So if you and I were having coffee, the way you look, your hair, the color of the tablecloth, all of this stuff is being processed. But say we are having coffee and someone comes in with a gun to your head, that information is still coming in and you are filing it as danger, fear. So the last time you saw a blue tablecloth, someone brought in a gun. Two months later, you are at a wedding and the tablecloth is blue and you are anxious and don’t know why. Right? Because the brain has filed blue under fear. Those are triggers, essentially.”


Successful EMDR therapy often results in the complete extinction of distressing symptoms, behaviours, and thought-patterns, by eliminating maladaptive, negative, or traumatic memories and experiences which formed the foundational basis for current distress. 

Furthermore, many clients often report their positive results increase over time (due to EMDR having a “generalizing” effect on the brain).

In addition to many other benefits, EMDR requires far less time than other approaches, and requires no homework.

At its roots, EMDR is a structured protocol which is comprised of 8 phases: 
1. Informed Consent & History Taking
​2. Preparation & Stabilization
3. Assessment
4. Desensitization
5. Installation
6. Body Scan
7. Closure
8. Re-Evaluation​

Advanced EMDR practitioners know when to deviate from the normal structure, and how to get back on course.

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EMDR is Endorsed by Health Authorities Across the Globe

What Can EMDR Help With?

EMDR was first developed to assist Vietnam Veterans recover from PTSD (then called Shell Shock).

Now after more than 30 years of research and extensive clinical experience from experts around the world, EMDR has been used very effectively to Successfully Treat a wide range of client difficulties:

  • General Anxiety
  • Social Anxiety
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Perfectionism
  • Phobias
  • OCD
  • Trauma
  • PTSD & C-PTSD
  • Overt & Covert​
  • Assaults
  • Domestic Violence
  • Abuse
  • Natural Disasters
  • Procrastination
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Addiction
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Shopping
  • Exercise
  • Work
  • Personality Disorders
  • Grief & Loss
  • Marriage and Relationship Repair
  • Infidelity
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Lack of Confidence
  • Self-Criticism
  • Body Image
  • Eating Disorders
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Nervous Tics
  • Trichotillomania​
  • ​Anger Problems
  • Shame

And much more…

How Does EMDR Compare to Other Psychotherapies?

EMDR yielded a 95% effectiveness rate for treating depression and required only 6-8 sessions for noticeable improvement.

While CBT yielded 40-50% effectiveness rate for treating depression that combined CBT + Medication (i.e. “Most common approach to treating depression”).

In 2014, Gauhar also noted a US National Comorbidity Survey found that the Depression Relapse Rate for CBT was 50%-80%, while the Depression Relapse Rate for EMDR was 0%.

67 individuals receiving “standard hospital care” (Cognitive, Psychodynamic, or Behavioural Therapy with Possible Group Therapy)…

It took just 3 EMDR sessions for 50% of the EMDR Group to no longer meet criteria for PTSD, while it took 11 sessions for the Standard Hospital Care group to no longer meet PTSD diagnosis.

Furthermore, after just 3 more sessions, 77% of the EMDR group no longer met the criteria for PTSD.

Therefore, results with EMDR were obtained in approximately 1/4 of the time as Cognitive, Psychodynamic, or Behavioural.

Marcus, Steven,Marquis, Priscilla,Sakai, Caroline, 2004. Three- and 6-Month Follow-Up of EMDR Treatment of PTSD in an HMO Setting. International Journal of Stress Management, Vol 11(3), Aug 2004, 195-208.

Earlier studies by Rothbaum, 1997; and Wilson et al., 1995, 1997, indicated similar results for EMDR’s efficacy for healing PTSD, where 84% to 100% of single trauma survivors only needed three 90-minute sessions to no longer meet the PTSD diagnosis.

Furthermore studies with combat veterans and civilians who suffered from multiple traumatic experiences, found that after 12 sessions, 77%-78% no longer had PTSD (Marcus et al., 1997, 2004).

Aslani, J., Miratashi, M., & Aslani, L. (2013). Zahedan Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. ZJRMS (2014); OCT; 16(Suppl 1): 46-49

85% of population experiences some level of anxiety about public speaking. 

(Burnley, M., Cross, P., Spanos, N. The effects of stress inoculation training and skills training on the treatment of speech anxiety. Imagin Cogn Pers. 1993; 12(4): 355-366).

EMDR therapy was found to be effective for reducing physiological symptoms of speech anxiety and increasing the speaker’s confidence.

After 4 years of unsuccessful talk therapy for choking phobia including (eating disorder treatment, brief psychodynamic therapy, CBT, and psychopharmacological treatment)…

EMDR Eliminated the client’s Choking Phobia.

EMDR went deeper than other therapies and was able to work through traumatic relationship with mother, and transformed beliefs that she was a “very, very bad girl,” and that her suffering was “God’s will”.

EMDR helped her to forgive her mother because her mother was “sick.”

EMDR transformed her identity and self-evaluation, and improved other areas of life (she feels happy outside the therapist’s office).

She’s with a loving partner who treats her with respect.

And she feels safe.

Karen Schurmans, 2007. EMDR Treatment of Choking Phobia. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, Vol. 1(2). Springer Publishing. DOI: 10.1891/1933-3196.1.2.118

And the list of research goes on for 30 years…

Robert Grigore, MCP, RCC.
Photo Credit: Charlie Vowles

If you’re wondering, “Why haven’t I heard of EMDR before?”

You’re not alone.

About 50% of people I speak to about EMDR ask the same question.

It’s because other forms of psychotherapy have been around for longer: CBT, Rogerian, Psychoanalysis, Gestalt, Existential, etc. EMDR hasn’t become a household name as of yet.

However, things have been changing over the last five or six years.

Thanks in large part to millions of happy clients around the world.

And a special thanks to the many celebrities who have championed EMDR in the media, using their massive platforms to influence the mental health zeitgeist.

Now more and more people are signing up.

Celebrity Endorsements of EMDR

Supported Evan Rachel Wood’s treatment of EMDR

Credit dpa picture alliance Alamy Stock Photo

Evan Rachel Wood was responsible for lighting the torch against Marilyn Manson for allegations of multiple counts of sexual abuse. Actress, model, and singer, told the world that she was going through EMDR therapy.

Credit Jennifer Graylock Alamy Stock Photo

After dealing with a stalker who broke into her home in 2014, Sandra Bullock decided to try EMDR therapy to cope.

Credit Allstar Picture Library Ltd Alamy Stock Photo

Prince Harry, the former Duke of Sussex, told Oprah he used EMDR to help with anxiety related to returning to the UK. He originally heard of EMDR from his therapist.

Prince Harry Credit Agencja Fotograficzna Caro Alamy Stock Photo

“This month, 6 years ago, I tried to take my own life. I’m so lucky that I survived, and went on to use EMDR to treat my severe PTSD.”

Credit Paul Smith Alamy Stock Photos

“Scary Spice”, Mel B shared she was overcoming her addictions to sex and alcohol abuse with the help of EMDR. 

Mel B Credit Bill Belknap Alamy Stock Photo

Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Jackson, went through EMDR treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts triggered by social media.

Paris Jackson Credit Jaguar Alamy Stock Photo

Good Morning Britain Star, Kate Garraway, shared she sought EMDR therapy to help her cope with her husband’s year-long battle with COVID-19.

Kate Garraway Credit Rich Gold  Alamy Stock Photo 

Already a mental health and addictions advocate, Russel Brand shared his stage with Jameela Jamil to promote her experience of EMDR.

Russel Brand Credit Lenny Monge  Photo Works Media  Alamy Stock Photo

Actress and Comedienne, shared her experience of successful EMDR therapy to help her overcome “impostor syndrome,” saying “EMDR saved my life.”

Whitney Cummings Credit Media Punch  Alamy Stock Photo

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