EMDR Therapy: How it Works and Who it Can Benefit

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EMDR Therapy: How it Works and Who it Can Benefit

Posted By Jason Hathaway     September 19, 2023    


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a well-established, effective treatment for trauma and various mental health issues. Initially developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), EMDR has evolved to address a broader range of conditions. In this article, we will explore how EMDR works and the diverse group of individuals it can benefit. Additionally, we'll emphasize the accessibility of this therapy, particularly the availability of EMDR Therapy in Draper, Utah, highlighting the importance of local access to such effective mental health treatments.

Understanding EMDR Therapy

EMDR was introduced in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro, who discovered that certain eye movements could significantly reduce the emotional distress associated with traumatic memories. The therapy involves a structured eight-phase approach to help individuals process distressing memories and associated negative beliefs.

  1. History Taking and Treatment Planning: The therapist collects a comprehensive history to determine the appropriate targets for EMDR processing.

  2. Preparation: The therapist explains the EMDR process and develops trust and rapport with the client, ensuring they have coping mechanisms for emotional regulation.

  3. Assessment: The therapist identifies specific memories and associated negative beliefs to target during the EMDR processing.

  4. Desensitization: The client focuses on distressing memories while the therapist guides them through bilateral stimulation, often using side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps.

  5. Installation: Positive beliefs are identified and strengthened to replace the negative beliefs associated with the distressing memories.

  6. Body Scan: The client focuses on residual physical tension associated with the distressing memories, facilitating its release.

  7. Closure: The therapist ensures the client feels stable at the end of each session, providing coping mechanisms for any remaining distress.

  8. Reevaluation: The therapist evaluates progress in subsequent sessions, addressing any remaining distress and identifying new targets for processing.

How EMDR Works

EMDR aims to help the brain reprocess distressing memories, ultimately reducing their emotional charge and the related negative beliefs. The bilateral stimulation used in EMDR is believed to simulate the brain's natural processing during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, facilitating the integration of distressing memories into the individual's overall memory network.

By engaging in guided bilateral stimulation while recalling distressing memories, individuals can reprocess those memories in a more adaptive and less distressing manner. Over time, this leads to a decrease in emotional reactivity and allows individuals to create new, more positive associations with the previously distressing memories.

Who Can Benefit from EMDR Therapy

1. Individuals with PTSD

EMDR therapy is most well-known for its effectiveness in treating PTSD. For those who have experienced trauma, such as combat veterans, survivors of assault, or accidents, EMDR can significantly alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, including intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and hypervigilance.

2. Survivors of Trauma or Abuse

Trauma survivors, including those who experienced childhood abuse or domestic violence, can find relief through EMDR therapy. It helps in processing traumatic memories, reducing the emotional impact, and empowering survivors to regain control over their lives.

3. Anxiety and Panic Disorders

EMDR therapy can benefit individuals with anxiety and panic disorders by targeting the distressing memories that contribute to their symptoms. It helps in desensitizing these memories, reducing the intensity of anxiety and panic attacks.

4. Depression

For individuals dealing with depression, particularly when it stems from past traumatic experiences or negative self-beliefs, EMDR can be a powerful tool. By reprocessing memories associated with these beliefs, individuals can find relief from depressive symptoms.

5. Phobias and Fears

EMDR can also be effective in treating specific phobias and fears. By targeting distressing memories related to the phobia, individuals can reduce the intensity of their fear response and gradually overcome their phobic reactions.

6. Chronic Pain and Illness

Some individuals suffering from chronic pain or dealing with the emotional toll of chronic illness may find relief through EMDR therapy. It can assist in addressing emotional distress associated with their condition and the pain or discomfort they endure.


EMDR therapy offers a structured and effective approach to alleviate distressing memories and their associated emotional impact. Its versatility in addressing various mental health conditions, from PTSD to phobias, makes it a valuable treatment option. If you've experienced trauma or struggle with distressing memories, EMDR therapy, guided by a skilled and licensed therapist, could provide the healing and relief you seek. Always consult with a mental health professional to determine the most suitable treatment for your unique circumstances.