EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Francine Shapiro (2001) for treatment of trauma and related symptoms. EMDR follows the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, which was developed by Shapiro to explain the foundation and development of mental health issues. According to the AIP model, most pathologies stem from earlier life experiences. These experiences cause a continued pattern of emotions, behaviors, and cognitions. Thus, targeting the information that got dysfunctionally stored in the nervous system is an important part of the therapy process.


“The past affects the present even without our being aware of it.”
― Francine Shapiro


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In EMDR, therapists use bilateral stimulation to help clients process their early life experiences that resulted in dysfunctional emotional and behavioral patterns (Shapiro, 2011). Although EMDR was initially named for eye movements, it is only one components of this complex modality and therapists can use different forms of stimulation such as tapping, pulsars, and sounds. There are eight phases in EMDR treatment: client history and treatment planning, preparation, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation. EMDR has different protocols for different issues that clients may be experiencing, and each protocol has different steps that therapists need to follow to reach treatment goals.


“Changing the memories that form the way we see ourselves also changes the way we view others. Therefore, our relationships, job performance, what we are willing to do or are able to resist, all move in a positive direction.”
― Francine Shapiro



Research studies support effectiveness of EMDR with PTSD related to a variety of traumatic situations in different age groups (Edmond, Rubin, & Wambach, 1999; Lewey et al. 2018, Schäfer et al., 2017). SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (2011) list EMDR as an evidence-based practice in treatment of PTSD.


“Today more than 20 scientifically controlled studies of EMDR have proven its effectiveness in the treatment of traumatic and other disturbing life experiences.”


LEARN MORE: What is EMDR? Brochure

LEARN MORE: EMDR Client Handout



Gomez, A. M. (2013). EMDR therapy and adjunct approaches with children: Complex trauma, attachment, and dissociation. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company. 

Lovett, J. (2015). Trauma-attachment tangle : Modifying EMDR to help children resolve trauma and develop loving relationships. New York: Routledge.

Rubin, A., Bischofshausen, S., Conroy-Moore, K., Dennis, B., Hastie, M., Melnick, L., Smith, T. (2001). The Effectiveness of EMDR in a Child Guidance Center. Research on Social Work Practice, 11(4), 435.

Shapiro, F. (2012). EMDR therapy: An overview of current and future research. European  Review of Applied Psychology, 62, 193-195.

Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (3rd).  New York: Guilford Press.

Schäfer, I., Chuey-Ferrer, L., Hofmann, A., Lieberman, P., Mainusch, G., & Lotzin, A. (2017). Effectiveness of EMDR in patients with substance use disorder and comorbid PTSD: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry, 17, 1–7.

Tufnell, G. (2005). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing in the Treatment of Pre-adolescent Children with Post-Traumatic Symptoms. Clinical Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 10(4), 587.