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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.


How is EMDR Therapy Different From Other Therapies?

EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue or completing homework between sessions. EMDR therapy, rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviours resulting from the distressing issue, allows the brain to resume its natural healing process.


EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.


How Does EMDR Therapy Affect the Brain?

Our brains have a natural way of recovering from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behaviour and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help.


Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the disturbing images, thoughts, and emotions may create an overwhelming feeling of being back in that moment or of being "frozen in time." EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.


What is the Timeframe for EMDR Treatment?

The amount of time the complete treatment will take depends upon the client's history. Complete treatment of the targets involves a three-pronged protocol (1-past memories, 2-present disturbance, 3-future actions) to alleviate the symptoms and address the full clinical picture. The goal of EMDR therapy is to completely process the experiences that are causing problems and include new ones that are needed for maximum health and wellbeing. Processing does not mean talking about it.


What is Meant by "Processing"?

Processing means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be digested and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is helpful to you from experience will be learned and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain and guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings, and behaviours are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences pushing you in the wrong direction. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and functional behaviours and interactions.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma and many other mental health problems.

To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.

EMDR Canada