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E.M.D.R. Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Sometimes called “Power Therapy,” EMDR is a technique that utilizes a specific motion of the eyes in concert with therapeutic guidance to produce emotional healing at an accelerated rate.

How Can EMDR Help You?

Cactus painting

EMDR is effective for anyone who has ever experienced any upset from which they have not yet recovered. Since 1988, EMDR has been used to transform psychological memory into objective memory. After a great deal of research, it was found that bilateral stimulation of the body could also have the same integrative effect as the eye movements. Studies found that taping or pulsing (i.e., hands, shoulders, knees) was also effective. Because traumatic memories are stored differently from ordinary memories, they become trapped in the brain, body, and nervous system in a fragmented, unintegrated form. Talk therapy alone is unable to adequately resolve this old trauma.

EMDR can help people with appetite disturbances, physical health concerns, feelings of being "stuck," excess stress, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, obsessions, compulsions, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies, decreased self-esteem, and PTSD symptoms.

Donna Bird’s Credentials and Experience

Donna has been trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing by Francine Shapiro, the originator of EMDR. Donna subsequently earned her National Certification (one of the few certified in the capital district area) in EMDR from the EMDRIA International Association. She has been helping adults and children overcome issues by using EMDR since 1999.

EMDR sessions are usually 60 or 90 minutes long. EMDR is done in the context of an overall therapy plan. If you begin with at least three sessions of EMDR, it will give you some indication of its effectiveness for you and the rate at which you are progressing. After that, it is dependent upon your individual needs and goals.

How Does EMDR Work?

We know that disturbing memories tend to have lasting effects on the way we see ourselves and others and how we interact with the world. These negative effects sometimes block us from evolving to our highest potential or from having successful relationships. Disturbing, traumatic events can be categorized into two types:

  1. Big Trauma:
    Surviving a tornado, war, car accident, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, rape, torture, mugging, life threatening events, etc.
  2. Small Trauma:
    Experiencing ridicule/shame, neglect as a child, a hospital/medical event, prolonged dying of a loved one, witnessing trauma, being intimidated, relationship losses, growing up in an dysfunctional home environment, etc.

EMDR can be used for almost any trauma-induced symptom. Donna clarifies:

I begin each EMDR session by providing the client with a safe inner place to go to. Then I explain that because disturbing memories become “frozen” in the brain and other parts of the body, the person will be asked to recall what is seen, felt, heard, and thought during this process. In this way the client is able to bring up the intense feelings of the event, while I alternately stimulate both sides of the brain/body by using tapping, sound, or eye movement in a safe way.

Seagull painting

After successful EMDR integration, the memory that was previously “intense” gradually becomes “desensitized” or “digested” through this process.

In other words, there is full recall of the event without the previous feelings of anxiety, disturbance, and/or emotional pain. Most people report that they feel the event is now a distant memory that they can recall with more objectivity and insight.

Additionally, clients report that they now have a positive belief about themselves (e.g., “I am important”; “I am safe”; “I am a good person”).

EMDR in the Media

  • “EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has emerged as a procedure to be reckoned with in psychology.… Almost a million people have been treated. Also, further research appears to support the remarkable claims made for EMDR therapy.”

    — reported in The Washington Post, July 21, 1995.

  • “New type of psychotherapy seen as boon to traumatic disorders.”

    — reported in The New York Times, October 26, 1997.

  • “Where traditional therapies may take years, EMDR takes only a few sessions.”

    — reported in The Stars and Stripes, February 12, 1995.

Research and Endorsements from Mental Health Professionals

EMDR is considered a treatment of choice by numerous mental health organizations:

International Treatment Guidelines

American Psychiatric Association (2004)
Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines.

EMDR given the same status as CBT as an effective treatment of ameliorating symptoms of both acute and chronic PTSD.

Bleich, A., Kotler, M., Kutz, E., & Shalev, A. (2002)
A position paper of the (Israeli) National Council for Mental Health: Guidelines for the assessment and professional intervention with terror victims in the hospital and in the community.

EMDR is one of only three methods recommended for treatment of terror victims.

Chambless, D.L. et al. (1998)
Update of empirically validated therapies, II. The Clinical Psychologist, 51, 3–16.

According to a task force of the Clinical Division of the American Psychological Association, the only methods empirically supported for the treatment of any post-traumatic stress disorder population were EMDR, exposure therapy, and stress inoculation therapy.

CREST (2003)
The management of post traumatic stress disorder in adults. A publication of the Clinical Resource Efficiency Support Team of the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast.

Of all the psychotherapies, EMDR and CBT were stated to be the treatments of choice for trauma victims.

Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense (2004)
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress. Washington, DC.

EMDR was one of four therapies given the highest level of evidence and recommended for treatment of PTSD.

Dutch National Steering Committee Guidelines Mental Health Care (2003)
Multidisciplinary Guideline Anxiety Disorders. Utrecht: Quality Institute Health Care CBO/Trimbos Intitute.

EMDR and CBT are both treatments of choice for PTSD.

Foa, E.B., Keane, T.M., & Friedman, M.J. (2000)
Effective treatments for PTSD: Practice Guidelines of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. New York: Guilford Press.

In the Practice Guidelines of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, EMDR was listed as an efficacious treatment for PTSD.

Sjöblom, P.O., Andréewitch, S . Bejerot, S., Mörtberg, E. , Brinck, U.,
Ruck, C., & Körlin, D. (2003)
Regional treatment recommendation for anxiety disorders. Stockholm: Medical Program Committee/Stockholm City Council.

Of all psychotherapies, CBT and EMDR are recommended as treatments of choice for PTSD.

United Kingdom Department of Health. (2001)
Treatment choice in psychological therapies and counselling evidence-based clinical practice guideline. London, England.

Best evidence of efficacy was reported for EMDR, exposure, and stress inoculation.


Davidson, P.R., & Parker, K.C.H. (2001)
“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): A meta-analysis.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 305–316.

EMDR is equivalent to exposure and other cognitive behavioral treatments. It should be noted that exposure therapy uses one to two hours of daily homework, and EMDR uses none.

Maxfield, L., & Hyer, L.A. (2002)
“The relationship between efficacy and methodology in studies investigating EMDR treatment of PTSD.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 23–41.

A comprehensive meta-analysis reported the more rigorous the study, the larger the effect.

Van Etten, M., & Taylor, S. (1998)
“Comparative efficacy of treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis.” Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 5, 126–144.

This meta-analysis determined that EMDR and behavior therapy were superior to psychopharmaceuticals. EMDR was more efficient than behavior therapy, with results obtained in one-third the time.

^ top

EMDR has emerged
as a procedure
to be reckoned with
in psychology.…
Also, further
research appears
to support the
remarkable claims
made for EMDR therapy.

— The Washington Post

  Donna Bird, LCSW, CCH  
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Clinical Hypnotist

Holistic Therapeutic Approaches to Change


phone: (518) 584.0698 • email: healing@nycap.rr.com