What is EMDR?


In society, trauma has long been recognized, but under different terms to describe it, such as shellshock in veterans. Unfortunately, trauma has not always been addressed in a manner that best serves those who have experienced it. Maladaptive ways that trauma has been addressed have occurred through stigma, pathologizing, and ineffective treatments. Even with the rising prominence of trauma-informed care applied to talk therapies, many individuals still experience difficulties with improved coping. This can be for several reasons, such as the time constraints that come with talk therapy impacting the rate of progress and difficulty for patients in communicating traumatic experiences. It is also important to recognize that while talk therapy can be an extremely useful tool in dealing with the effects of trauma, it is critical to recognize that the impacts of trauma affect individuals on a neurological level.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a treatment that targets the source of the brain’s fear response through a process called bilateralization. Bilateralization occurs when the separate hemispheres of the brain are stimulated simultaneously, which causes dual attention to occur. Bilateral stimulation helps keep the client grounded in the present moment. This decreases the level of fear response that is activated from the brain and allows new beliefs (adaptive information) to be incorporated into associations with the triggering event. Bilateral stimulation is provided through various mechanisms. Some of these mechanisms include, directing eye movement with a moving finger, lights, sounds, butterfly tapping, or hand-held tappers. The therapist serves as a guide while administering the bilateral stimulation as the internal system and brain begin to heal itself.

When our systems encounter a traumatic experience, to protect, it will go into a fight/flight/freeze/fawn (fear) response. The brain can then get stuck in that response and has difficultly accessing adaptive information, which is the information we may know to be true now (EX: “I am safe”, “I am loved”, “I am in control”, etc). EMDR helps reconnect the neurological pathways in the brain, helping our systems get from one side of the canyon to the other. Accessing adaptive information through EMDR and bilateral stimulation allows for the reduction of traumatic reactions stemming from the experience/memory. Once our brains can access the adaptive information, we see PTSD, anxiety, and depressive symptoms decrease.

Learn More about EMDR

EMDR can be a highly effective trauma treatment, as it does not require the patient to speak at length about the distressing event. It can yield results more quickly than traditional talk therapies. There is an 8-phase process administered by a professional EMDR-certified therapist. EMDR is one of the treatment modalities that the therapists at Torus Therapy utilize in the treatment of trauma. If you would like to learn more about EMDR or speak to someone about the possibility of receiving treatment, click here.


Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of
. https://ci.nii.ac.jp/ncid/BB19708339