Understanding EMDR – by Therapist & Psychologist Maria Rodrigues





EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of distressing life experiences.

Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires time to heal. There is no medication with EMDR.

EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.

EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

What to expect

The first session involves extensive assessment in order to ascertain eligibility and set individual goals for treatment.

EMDR therapy involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future. Focus is a given to past disturbing memories and related events. Also, it is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions. With EMDR therapy, these items are addressed using an eight-phase treatment approach.

How many sessions will it take?

The number of sessions depends upon specific problems and client history. However, repeated controlled studies have shown that a single trauma can be processed within 3 sessions in 80-90% of participants. While every disturbing event need not be processes, the amount of therapy will depend upon the complexity of the history. In a controlled study, 80% of multiple civilian trauma victims no longer has PTSD after approximately 6 hours of treatment. A study of combat veterans reported that after 12 sessions 77% no longer had PTSD.

How do I know that EMDR therapy will work for my anxiety/problems?

EMDR therapy has been extensively researched as effective for problems based on earlier traumas. In addition, reports from clinicians over the past 25 years have indicated that EMDR therapy can be extremely effective when there are experiential contributors that need to be addressed.