How EMDR Therapists Can Help Heal Trauma

One approach that has been gaining traction in recent years is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. This innovative form of therapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating trauma and its related symptoms.

If you are considering seeking treatment for trauma, it’s important to understand how EMDR therapists can help you heal and move forward in your life.

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Francine Shapiro. It is a type of psychotherapy that uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or taps, to help individuals process and heal from traumatic experiences.

During an EMDR session, the therapist will guide the client through recalling a traumatic memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. This process helps the individual reprocess the traumatic event in a safe and controlled environment, allowing them to form new, more adaptive associations with the memory.

EMDR therapy has been recognized as an effective treatment for trauma by organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association. It has also been found to be effective in treating a variety of other mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and phobias.

The Origins of EMDR Therapy

The inception of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy first arose from the astute observations of psychologist Francine Shapiro. During a walk in the park one day, Shapiro noticed that as her eyes moved rapidly from side to side while focusing on different objects, her anxiety and distressing thoughts seemed to diminish in intensity. This seemingly simple connection between eye movements and emotional processing sparked the development of a groundbreaking therapeutic approach that combined elements from cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and bilateral stimulation techniques.

From its humble beginnings as a series of chance observations, EMDR therapy has evolved into a comprehensive and structured treatment modality that is now widely recognized for its effectiveness in treating a variety of psychological disorders. Shapiro’s initial discovery has since been refined and enhanced through rigorous research and clinical practice, leading to the development of a standardized protocol that guides therapists in using bilateral stimulation techniques to facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic memories and maladaptive beliefs. By seamlessly integrating elements from different therapeutic disciplines, EMDR therapy offers a holistic approach to healing that addresses both the cognitive and emotional aspects of psychological distress.

The Science Behind EMDR

EMDR therapy draws from the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, a theoretical framework that suggests trauma can disrupt an individual’s ability to process information effectively. When a person experiences trauma, their brain may become overwhelmed and unable to fully integrate the disturbing memories into their existing cognitive framework. As a result, these unresolved memories can continue to trigger distressing emotions and symptoms long after the traumatic event has passed. EMDR therapy seeks to address these blockages by engaging the brain’s natural healing mechanisms, guiding the individual towards a more adaptive and integrated way of processing and storing traumatic memories. Through a series of standardized procedures, EMDR helps the brain reprocess the traumatic memories, allowing the individual to experience relief and move towards emotional healing and resolution.

Furthermore, EMDR therapy also recognizes the interconnectedness of past experiences and current symptoms. According to the AIP model, unresolved memories and unprocessed emotions from the past can contribute to a host of psychological issues and symptoms in the present. By pinpointing and processing these past traumas, EMDR aims to not only alleviate current distress but also prevent future psychological difficulties from arising. By addressing the root cause of symptoms rather than simply treating the surface manifestations, EMDR therapy offers a comprehensive and lasting approach to healing trauma and promoting overall well-being.

In addition, EMDR therapy involves a structured protocol that includes several distinct phases. These phases are designed to gradually guide the individual through the reprocessing of traumatic memories and the integration of new, adaptive information. The therapist begins by building a trusting relationship with the client and conducting a thorough assessment of their history and current symptoms. Subsequent phases focus on preparing the client for the reprocessing work, identifying target memories to address, and engaging in bilateral stimulation (such as eye movements or tapping) to facilitate the adaptive processing of these memories. Through the systematic and collaborative nature of EMDR therapy, individuals are able to safely explore and reprocess their traumatic experiences, leading to profound healing and transformation.

EMDR and the Brain

Research in the field of psychotherapy has shown that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has the potential to have a significant impact on the brain’s ability to process and make sense of traumatic experiences. It is believed that EMDR mimics the natural healing process that takes place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, where the brain consolidates and integrates information from the day. Through this simulated process, individuals undergoing EMDR therapy may find that their traumatic memories become more manageable and easier to comprehend.

What to Expect from EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy sessionby Valentina Conde (

The duration and frequency of EMDR therapy sessions are highly personalized based on each individual’s unique circumstances and the extent of their trauma. Factors such as the severity of the trauma, the individual’s readiness to engage in therapy, and their progress throughout the sessions all contribute to determining the length and frequency of treatment. It is not uncommon for clients to attend multiple 60-90 minute sessions over the span of several weeks or even months in order to effectively address and process their trauma.

In the initial session of EMDR therapy, the therapist takes the time to thoroughly assess the client’s trauma history and gain a comprehensive understanding of their past experiences and current symptoms. Through this assessment, the therapist seeks to identify the root causes of the trauma and any underlying issues that may be contributing to the client’s distress. This information serves as the foundation for developing a customized treatment plan that aligns with the client’s goals and addresses their specific needs. By collaboratively working with the client to establish therapeutic goals and objectives, the therapist can ensure that the treatment is tailored to the individual’s unique circumstances and promotes healing and recovery.

In subsequent sessions, the therapist will guide the client through the eight phases of EMDR therapy, which include:

Phase 1: History Taking

The therapist will start the process by asking the individual to share their trauma history, exploring the details and impact of past distressing events. They will also assess the individual’s current emotional state and level of readiness to engage in EMDR therapy, ensuring that they are in a stable enough mental and emotional space to benefit from the treatment. Additionally, the therapist may inquire about the client’s support system, including friends, family, or other sources of emotional support that can help them through the therapy process. They may also ask about any previous therapies the client has attempted, in order to better understand what has been helpful or unhelpful in the past and tailor the EMDR therapy sessions to meet the individual’s specific needs and preferences.

Phase 2: Preparation

During the reprocessing phase, the therapist will work closely with the individual to identify any distressing thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations that may come up. Together, they will explore and address these difficulties in a safe and supportive environment. The therapist will assist the individual in developing coping skills and relaxation techniques that can be used to manage and alleviate distress as it arises. These tools may include grounding exercises, such as focusing on the present moment or engaging in sensory activities, as well as guided imagery exercises to promote a sense of safety and relaxation. Through ongoing support and practice, the individual will be able to navigate and process difficult emotions more effectively.

Phase 3: Assessment

During the therapy session, the therapist will carefully and thoughtfully identify the specific traumatic memories that have had a significant impact on the individual’s emotional well-being and overall mental health. These memories will serve as the focal point during the reprocessing phase of the therapy, where the individual will work towards processing and resolving the negative emotions and distress associated with these specific events.

In addition to identifying the traumatic memories, the therapist will also work with the individual to address and explore the various triggers that currently affect the client’s day-to-day life. By understanding these triggers, the therapist can help the individual develop healthy coping mechanisms and strategies to manage and ultimately overcome the emotional distress that they may experience as a result of these triggers.

Furthermore, the therapist will delve into the negative beliefs that the individual holds about themselves as a direct result of the traumatic experiences they have endured. By addressing and challenging these negative beliefs, the therapist can help the individual reframe their thoughts and develop a more positive and compassionate understanding of themselves, ultimately leading to increased self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Phase 4: Desensitization

By employing bilateral stimulation, which can include techniques such as eye movements, tapping, or sounds, the therapist will carefully lead the individual through the process of reprocessing a specific traumatic memory that has been identified as the target of therapy. This method allows the individual’s brain to reorganize and integrate the distressing memory in a way that ultimately reduces its emotional impact. Throughout this guided process, the therapist remains vigilant in observing the client’s responses and closely monitors their emotional state to prevent any overwhelming distress or retraumatization. This ensures that the individual remains within a manageable level of discomfort and is able to effectively process the traumatic memory without becoming overwhelmed.

Phase 5: Installation

During this phase of therapy, the therapist will work closely with the individual to help them form new and more adaptive associations with the traumatic memory that has been causing distress. The goal is to guide the person in replacing negative beliefs and emotions associated with the memory with more positive and empowering ones. By doing so, the individual can begin to develop a stronger sense of control and empowerment over the traumatic experience, ultimately leading to improved emotional well-being and resilience.

Phase 6: Body Scan

During the therapy session, the therapist will lead the individual in a body scan, a technique used to carefully and mindfully observe the physical sensations throughout the body. This scan is a comprehensive process that involves slowly moving attention from the top of the head down to the toes, taking note of any areas of tension, discomfort, or negative sensations that may be present. By guiding the individual through this process, the therapist helps the individual to become more in tune with their body and to recognize any lingering physical manifestations of stress or trauma. By identifying and releasing these residual tensions or negative sensations, the individual can fully integrate the reprocessing of their experiences on a somatic level, ensuring that the therapeutic work is effective and complete.

Phase 7: Closure

The therapist will take the necessary steps to ensure that the individual is in a calm and grounded state before concluding the therapy session. This may involve utilizing various techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, to assist the client in returning to a balanced state of mind and body. By taking the time to address the individual’s emotional and mental well-being, the therapist aims to provide a safe and supportive environment for the client to process their thoughts and feelings effectively. This attention to the client’s current state can help them better cope with any lingering emotions or challenges that may arise after the session has ended.

Phase 8: Reevaluation

At the start of every new therapy session, the therapist will take the time to carefully reassess the individual’s progress since the last meeting. By doing so, the therapist can effectively gauge how well the current treatment plan is working and whether any modifications or changes need to be made in order to better address the individual’s needs and objectives. This ongoing process of evaluation and adjustment serves to not only ensure that the individual continues to receive the most effective treatment possible, but also helps to consolidate and enhance the benefits of therapy over the course of time.

How EMDR Therapists Can Help Heal Trauma

EMDR therapists undergo extensive training and education to develop a deep understanding of trauma and its various manifestations. Through this specialized training, they acquire the knowledge and expertise needed to effectively address the underlying causes and symptoms of trauma in their clients. Armed with a diverse array of therapeutic tools and techniques, EMDR therapists are well-equipped to guide their clients through the healing process and support them on their journey to recovery. By drawing upon their extensive training and experience, they are able to provide compassionate and effective care to individuals who have experienced trauma.

Understanding the Impact of Trauma

EMDR therapist at workby LinkedIn Sales Solutions (

EMDR therapists possess a deep understanding of the intricate ways in which trauma can impact both the brain and body of an individual. Through their specialized training and experience, these therapists are able to recognize and appreciate the profound ways in which traumatic experiences can disrupt an individual’s cognitive and emotional functioning. By delving into the depths of how trauma can create barriers to processing and integrating emotions and memories, EMDR therapists are equipped to guide individuals through the complex journey of healing and recovery.

This understanding allows EMDR therapists to provide compassionate and effective care to those struggling with trauma. They can help their clients make sense of their experiences and develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage their symptoms.

Addressing Underlying Issues

Trauma, a distressing or disturbing experience, can frequently be followed by the emergence of various other mental health concerns. These may include conditions such as anxiety, a state of heightened worry or nervousness, depression, a feeling of overwhelming sadness and hopelessness, and substance abuse, the misuse of drugs or alcohol. EMDR therapists undergo specialized training to not only recognize and acknowledge these accompanying issues but also to effectively navigate and resolve them alongside the trauma at hand. By delving into the root causes and complexities of these interconnected mental health challenges, EMDR therapists can provide comprehensive and holistic care for their clients.

By thoroughly exploring and addressing all of the underlying issues that contribute to a person’s trauma, EMDR therapists are able to offer a holistic approach to healing that goes beyond simply treating symptoms. By delving into the root causes of a person’s trauma, therapists can help individuals not only heal from past wounds, but also develop coping mechanisms and strategies for navigating future challenges. This comprehensive care aims to empower individuals to improve their overall well-being and build resilience in the face of adversity.

Providing a Safe and Supportive Environment

Creating a safe and supportive environment for clients is a key responsibility for EMDR therapists, as it is crucial for individuals to feel secure and cared for as they embark on the challenging journey of processing trauma. Discussing traumatic events can evoke a wide range of emotions and reactions, so it is imperative that clients feel at ease and trust in their therapist to guide them through the healing process with empathy and understanding. By fostering a sense of safety and support, therapists can help clients feel empowered to confront and address their past traumas in a healthy and productive manner.

EMDR therapists undergo comprehensive training in order to effectively guide their clients through the intricate process of trauma processing. They are equipped with the skills to create a safe and judgment-free environment where individuals can freely delve into the depths of their emotions and memories without fear of criticism or rejection. Through this compassionate space, clients are able to gradually unravel the layers of their trauma, piece by piece, with the unwavering support and understanding of their therapist. This therapeutic approach fosters a sense of security and trust, enabling clients to confront and work through their past experiences in a gradual and controlled manner.

Building a Therapeutic Alliance

The relationship between the therapist and client is of utmost importance in the effectiveness of EMDR therapy. EMDR therapists understand the significance of fostering a deep and meaningful connection with their clients in order to create a safe and supportive environment for the healing process to take place. This therapeutic alliance is built on trust, empathy, and collaboration, providing clients with a sense of security and validation as they navigate through their past traumas. For many clients who have endured relational traumas, this nurturing bond with their therapist can serve as a transformative and healing experience, allowing them to reframe their understanding of relationships and ultimately heal from past wounds.

Enhancing Resilience

EMDR therapists place a strong emphasis not only on alleviating the symptoms that their clients are currently experiencing, but also on building up their resilience and ability to cope with any future stressors that may arise. By empowering their clients and encouraging them to recognize their own strengths and resources, these therapists aim to provide their clients with the tools they need to navigate challenging situations and overcome obstacles in their lives. Through this approach, EMDR therapists work towards fostering a sense of empowerment and self-efficacy within their clients, ultimately helping them to build a foundation for long-term mental and emotional well-being.

Facilitating Post-Traumatic Growth

EMDR therapy is a highly effective method that not only focuses on alleviating the negative impacts of trauma but also emphasizes the potential for post-traumatic growth. Through this therapy, trained therapists guide clients towards not only healing from their traumatic experiences but also towards finding meaning and purpose in these experiences. By exploring the ways in which trauma can lead to personal growth and positive change, clients are able to transform their perspectives and ultimately make significant strides towards a healthier and more fulfilling life. In this way, EMDR therapy empowers individuals to not only overcome their past traumas but also to emerge stronger and more resilient than before.

EMDR therapy session with a therapistby Leuchtturm Entertainment (

The Importance of Certification

When looking for an EMDR therapist, it’s important to ensure that they are properly certified. Certification indicates that the therapist has completed the necessary training and adheres to the high standards set by EMDR professional organizations. All of our therapist are going through the process of becoming certified or are already certified.

Assessing Therapist Compatibility

During an initial consultation, it is important to carefully evaluate whether the therapist’s communication style, approach to treatment, and overall personality are in line with your own preferences and needs. This is essential in order to ensure that the therapeutic process is effective and fruitful for both parties involved. Therapist-client compatibility plays a significant role in the success of any therapeutic experience, as it sets the foundation for a strong and trusting relationship between the therapist and client.

When meeting with a therapist for the first time, take the opportunity to observe and assess how they communicate and interact with you. Pay attention to their tone of voice, body language, and overall demeanor to see if it resonates with you and makes you feel comfortable. It is important to feel a sense of connection and understanding with your therapist in order to establish a safe and supportive environment for your therapy sessions.

In addition to communication style, it is also crucial to consider the therapist’s approach to treatment and the techniques they use in their practice. Different therapists may have varying modalities and methodologies that they incorporate into their work, so it is important to determine if their approach aligns with your own goals and preferences for therapy. By discussing these aspects during the initial consultation, you can ensure that you and your therapist are on the same page and working towards common objectives in your therapeutic journey.

Considering Specialized Experience

When selecting a therapist, it is important to take into consideration their individualized experience and expertise in working with specific populations or types of trauma. For example, some therapists may have extensive knowledge and training in working with veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD, while others may have a background in providing therapy to survivors of sexual assault. By choosing a therapist with specialized experience in your particular area of need, you can ensure that you are receiving the most effective and appropriate support for your unique circumstances. It is essential to discuss your specific concerns and expectations with potential therapists to determine if their specialized experience aligns with your therapeutic goals.


Trauma, whether experienced in childhood or as an adult, can deeply affect a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being, influencing their thoughts, behaviors, and relationships. The impact of trauma can create lasting wounds that may manifest in symptoms such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and difficulties in forming healthy attachments. However, it is important to recognize that trauma does not have to define one’s entire future, and healing is possible through interventions such as EMDR therapy.

EMDR therapy, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic approach that has been proven effective in treating trauma-related disorders. This specialized form of therapy helps individuals process traumatic memories in a safe and structured manner, allowing them to reframe their experiences and release the emotional charge associated with them. By engaging in EMDR therapy, individuals can begin to regain a sense of safety, control, and empowerment in their lives.

When working with a skilled and compassionate EMDR therapist, individuals can expect to receive personalized care tailored to their unique needs and circumstances. The therapist will guide them through a series of standardized protocols and techniques designed to help them reprocess traumatic memories and integrate positive beliefs and coping skills. Through this process, individuals can experience relief from the distressing symptoms of trauma and develop greater resilience and self-compassion.

If you or a loved one is struggling with the effects of trauma, it is important to seek support from a trained EMDR therapist who can provide the necessary tools and resources for healing and recovery. By taking the courageous step to reach out for help, individuals can begin their journey towards healing and reclaiming their lives from the grip of trauma. Do not hesitate to connect with an EMDR therapist today to start your path to healing and transformation.