What is EMDR?

Your mind is a powerful tool capable of sending millions of synapses daily into your body to operate functionally. It can store memories and experiences like data and translates this data into information that governs your operating systems. Our behavior, how we talk to people, the foods we like, how we take our coffee, and our aversion to risk are all decisions linked to how our minds store and process information.

However, when faced with trauma, our mind doesn’t process and filter these experiences the same way. Traumatic events can be so devastating and painful that they may manifest into symptoms that can stunt our personal growth. Physiological effects such as anxiety, a sense of impending doom, heightened heart rate, and trouble concentrating can all be attributed to PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Fortunately, therapy exists that treats people who experience PTSD or other stress-related symptoms. One such therapy is EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. 

EMDR and many other therapies are available on sites like BetterHelp. BetterHelp links people with thousands of licensed professional therapists to get you the help you need. For more information about EMDR, visit BetterHelp.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a type of therapy that focuses on relieving symptoms deriving from traumatic events using bilateral stimulation and memory reprocessing. 

Traumatic events are not limited to conventional PTSD-qualifying events, such as near-death experiences or losing a loved one. Events such as divorce, family separation, or racially-based threats can also qualify as traumatic events.

EMDR believes that people who’ve experienced trauma are living with unprocessed memories. Unprocessed memories are memories we haven’t digested or analyzed because they’re too painful to confront. EMDR is a way to gain awareness of these unprocessed memories and reprocess them so that they stop taking over our present.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR consists of two components: desensitization and reprocessing. 


Therapists establish a safe environment for patients with breathing exercises and altering ambiance to provide a calming experience. The therapist allows the patient to speak freely, without being forced to talk about their trauma unless they’re ready. Once they feel safe, patients begin to recount their memories at their own pace. In between the recounting, therapists will perform what’s called bilateral stimulation. 

Bilateral stimulation is the practice of using external stimuli in rhythmic patterns. The stimulation consists of simple processes, usually involving the patient following the therapists’ hand move from left to right. This process activates both hemispheres of the brain by focusing on an easy task that focuses on the present. 


Once a patient’s symptoms are manageable, therapists ask more profound questions about the event. This guided conversation gives both patient and therapist enough agency to unravel the past and look at events more objectively. 

During this stage, and every step of EMDR, therapists give patients total control. Patients choose how much or little they want to share. This control provides patients the chance to confront their memories without the added pressure of stress or anxiety. 

With their therapist’s help, patients can change their memories’ narratives. This process is the reprocessing process. 

By helping patients confront their memories and letting them understand and restructure the event, EMDR gives patients the tools to take control of their present and future. 

What Are Some Benefits of EMDR?

One significant benefit to EMDR, as opposed to other therapy types, is the length of treatment. Many patients have said they stopped feeling severe symptoms in as little as three sessions. Typically, EMDR sessions can last up to 90 minutes, and sessions usually run for 6-12 meetings.

Here are some more of the benefits of EMDR.

  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety
  • Higher Self-Esteem
  • Treats Depression, Anxiety, and Panic Disorders
  • A healthier alternative to prescription drugs
  • Self-awareness
  • Increased Focus and Concentration
  • Greater Control of Your Life

Final Thoughts

EMDR can help patients make sense of their traumatic experiences. Studies have shown that EMDR helps patients experiencing social anxiety and depression. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of PTSD or other stress-related disorders, reach out to a licensed therapist for more information.

Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.