Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

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What is EMDR?
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a method that helps relieve posttraumatic stress. It is used for reducing fears and anxiety as well as for strengthening feelings calm and confidence.

What Does Desensitization Mean?
Desensitization is the process of becoming comfortable with a memory of an event that was scary, but is current over or harmless.

Traumatic events surrounding a loved one’s death resulted in my reliving the loss over and over. The images and intense feelings would not subside. The experience went beyond grieving and seemed to take over my life. The negative memory impacted me to the point that I could not sleep. After receiving the EMDR treatment the memory stayed, but it no longer had its devastatingly negative influence over me. I was able to begin a healthier grieving process.
Marcia, Green Bay, WI

How was EMDR Discovered?
In 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro discovered that eye movement can help to make memories less upsetting. One day when she was walking in the park, she was bothered by some disturbing memories. As she walked, the memories became less disturbing. She wondered what she had been doing that made the memories less upsetting, and she realized that she had been moving her eyes quickly back and forth.

At the time, Dr. Shapiro was a psychologist helping war veterans. She wondered whether her clients would feel less upset by memories of war if she guided them to move their eyes back and forth. It worked! Since that time, EMDR has evolved into a sophisticated method for treating trauma, anxiety, and stress.

Facts about EMDR
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR involves rapid eye movements done by the individual as he/she thinks about the past events or the present life situation. These rapid eye movements are similar to those that occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, or the state where dreaming occurs, however, EMDR is done while the person is fully awake and thinking about the trauma or distress he/she is experiencing.

Although the therapist assists in maintaining the eye movement and in processing information that comes up, one advantage to this method is that the resolution for the issues comes from within the individual’s mind and usually emerges spontaneously as the negative feelings are cleared. The therapist does not usually suggest, either directly or indirectly, how the issues are to be resolved.


EMDR changed my life. I had recurring thoughts of my son almost drowning in a lake, seeing him blue, not breathing, then coming around, spitting up the water. It was a ‘tape’ that played in my head like a movie. EMDR stopped all of that. I can now think of the incident and not go into a panic mode. Praise the Lord for this therapy!

Holly, Manitowac, WI


In response to EMDR anxiety, anger, and guilt are frequently reduced very rapidly, as are a variety of symptoms that often follow traumatic events: intrusive recollections, reliving the event avoidance, numbing, and symptoms of hyper-arousal such as sleep disturbance, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.



EMDR is neither intrusive nor aversive. This process is not hypnosis. The individual remains fully alert and in control of his her choices.