by Britt Cowart, LCSW

An Introduction to Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

What is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy, or EMDR? Is it right for me? Find out more in this blog article by Britt Cowart, LCSW, Grief Services Director at Full Circle Grief Center.

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy, or EMDR, is a therapy tool commonly used in a variety of settings. A brief background of EMDR includes the following:

  • An evidence based structured therapy developed over 25 years ago by Francine Shapiro, PhD, that is clinically proven to be effective and efficient in safely releasing trauma and pain both in the body and in the mind.
  • A guided process that supports trauma work by using “bilateral stimulation” (BLS), deep breathing and other means to quiet or ground the nervous system.
  • 8 phased therapy where the goal is reprocessing disturbing memories associated with past or present experiences, that then allows the memories to be stored in a new, more functional way, location.
  • Helps process the negative images, emotions, beliefs and body sensations associated with traumatic memories that seem to be stuck and causing distress and discomfort.
  • Enables clients to clear out distressing memories of the past, deal with present concerns and move toward a positive future.

EMDR can be used for a variety of issues including:

  • Trauma-related experiences and emotional distress
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Abuse
  • Vicarious trauma
  • Grief
  • Disordered eating
  • Chronic pain
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares

EMDR can also be helpful in grief-centered therapy by addressing the following concerns:

  • Reducing the intensity of grief emotions and eliminating problematic symptoms
  • Supporting ability to process the hurt and pain
  • Restoring the healing between body and mind
  • Focusing on traumatic memories surrounding a loss and how they are stored in the brain
  • Ultimately decreasing distress and dysregulated behavior and increasing regulatory function
EMDR Therapy Demonstrations: Phases 1-8

The concept of “resourcing” is also important in EMDR therapy. Resourcing refers to identifying and instilling coping skills to help deal with difficult reactions that may be experienced. During and outside of EMDR sessions, one can utilize resourcing to keep calm and be in the present moment. The following videos include examples of resourcing techniques that can be used within EMDR therapy and outside of sessions.

The Butterfly Hug
EMDR Container Exercise

Additional Resources:

EMDR International Association