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Top 8 Things I learned about EMDR

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

I completed my training in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in September of this year. I learned about EMDR through personal research about 3 years ago. I was attempting to identify the best therapeutic modality to treat trauma. Once I learned that guided eye movements had the potential to help process the hardest moments of peoples’ lives, I planned to take the training as soon as possible.

Months, and then years passed before I committed to the course. Now that I’ve completed the training, I want to share the top 8 things I took away. Whether you are a therapist considering an additional therapy style, a curious client, or someone considering therapy for the first time, consider the following points before making up your mind about EMDR.

  1. EMDR is not hypnosis. I didn’t think it was hypnosis personally, but I was surprised by the number of colleagues and new patients who had this idea. EMDR places an emphasis on maintaining dual awareness. Meaning it is important the client is fully conscious of the present while thinking and processing past memories.

  2. EMDR trained is not synonymous with EMDR certified. After a therapist completes EMDR training he/she is capable of performing EMDR in their clinical practice for populations within their areas of competency. In order to become EMDR certified, therapists must complete additional steps (found on the EMDRIA website: This process takes about 1 calendar year, and it encourages continued education and consultation with certified EMDR consultants.

  3. Memories are stored in different ways. This one was simple, but mind-blowing when I really understood it. We’ve all smelled cookies and thought back to our mom or grandma baking in the kitchen. This is an example of how smell is linked to memories. Memories can also be stored in emotions, feelings, thoughts, images, & sounds. EMDR scans for and targets all of these components of memories to ensure the memory is fully processed.

  4. EMDR may require less talking from the client. Unlike traditional talk therapy, EMDR encourages the clinician to limit their discussion during the cliesn’t processing. There is an emphasis on allowing the client to allow their brain to heal itself through its internal networking, and with as little influence from the clinician as possible. This may offer relief to clients who’s cultural or moral beliefs prohibit them from providing explicit details about the traumatic events.

  5. EMDR is not limited to using eye movements. The founder of EMDR, Francine Shapiro, first noticed results with eye movements. What was later discovered is other forms of bilateral stimulation (BLS) are equally effective. Whether clients are visually impared, blind, physiological limitations, or simply prefer alternative BLS, EDMR can be modified to the client’s preference.

  6. EMDR is for children too. EDMR can be easily modified to assist children in processing events too. By incorporating play, changing some language and using age-appropriate BLS.

  7. Most people have trauma. Through the required readings and training, I learned we all have trauma. Often, when thinking of trauma we think of the “Big T” Traumas (natural disasters, building collapses, living through a war); however, there are other “little t” traumas that most have experienced at some point in life. Being embarrassed by peers at school, falling off a horse, and other events may also benefit from EMDR helping to process those memories.

  8. EMDR is for more than trauma. Although it’s an evidence-based psychotherapy (EBP) for trauma, it has been proven highly effective for many mental health symptoms and diagnoses. Some of which have a history of treatment resistance with other EBPs. Other diagnoses treated with EMDR include: depression, grief and loss, chronic pain, phobias, personality disorders, anxiety, mood disorders, and performance enhancement.

The positive results of EMDR have been seen with various populations and countries around the world. If you are considering learning more, visit the EMDRIA website (, call an EMDR therapist, or read Francine Shapiro’s book (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (Emdr) Therapy, Third Edition - 3rd Edition). I hope this has inspired you to give EMDR a try as a professional furthering your skills, a client receiving care, or both. If you have tried traditional therapy in the past, but are interested in EMDR, maybe now is your time to try something new!

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