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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing


The EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) technique has been used in psychotherapy since the late 1980s. Relatively new, it works by activating mechanisms of brain creativity, helping to address distinct problems and symptoms. EMDR has proven extremely effective in treating numerous psychological and emotional problems, especially related to traumatic events.

Created by Dr. Francine Shapiro, who completed her Ph.D. in Psychology in California in 1987, the technique allows the desensitization and reprocessing of experiences through the stimulation of the two hemispheres of the brain (hence the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Since its inception, EMDR has been one of the most widely researched methods in the US, with special recommendation by the American Psychiatric Association. In addition, more than 100,000 therapists have been trained worldwide in the approach that today represents a paradigm shift in psychotherapy.

follow finger

Dr. Shapiro discovered that her negative emotions diminished as her eyes moved back and forth during one of her walks. Using what she had discovered about herself, her patients were instructed to follow the movements of her hand with their eyes as they recalled the traumatic event that caused their PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). This is the cornerstone technique still used today.

EMDR is usually used to reduce anxiety symptoms, depressive manifestations, and to improve the overall mental health of the patient. It is a particularly effective method in matters related to traumatic events.

Some example situations where EMDR was used or is still being used to treat trauma victims:

  • After a huge fire at the Kiss Nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil, in January 2013
  • Following the September 11 terrorist attacks
  • Returning war veterans
  • Refugees escaping oppressive regimes
EMDR Certification

This type of therapy, initially idealized as brief and focal psychotherapy, uses sensory stimulation (auditory, ocular and/or tactile) to activate healing mechanisms. It should be applied only by an EMDR trained and certified psychotherapist.

Francine Shapiro, PhD, is a Senior Researcher at the Mental Institute in Palo Alto, California, and founder of EMDR's Trauma Recovery and Humanitarian Assistance programs as well as the Executive Director of the EMDR Institute.