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Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing 

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a powerful technique that has been extensively researched and has been proven effective for the treatment of many sources of psychological distress.

The human brain is an amazing and complex organ that has incredible abilities but also has limitations.  One function of our brain is to intake and process information from our environment and experiences into our short and long term memory. Most of the time, difficult experiences are processed and stored in our memory network and we recover fairly quickly.  However, in some traumatic or stressful situations, our brain becomes "flooded" or overwhelmed with too much information.  Sometimes our brain can "shut down" or put up a firewall as a "protective" function, and the memories are not processed in a functional manner.  Our brain recognizes "triggers", events  or environmental stimuli  that remind it of past stressful experiences reacts in what we experience as a "fight, flight, freeze, appease, highly emotional or reactive or shut down" manner.    This process causes problems in our every-day life, and can affect our relationships and ability to connect with others in a healthy manner.   EMDR is becoming a widely recognized procedure or method of therapy to address the above process and a variety of mental health concerns.  The time it takes to heal varies from person to person.  Although results are not guaranteed, if used correctly and if the client has an open mind to the process, it certainly can help provide relief.   

EMDR was developed in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro.  It has been used to effectively to treat a wide range of mental health and attachment issues. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Post Traumatic Stress and stress-related symptoms

  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks

  • Social Anxiety and Agoraphobia

  • Depression

  • Grief and loss of a loved one

  • Anger

  • Phobias

  • Memory issues related to trauma and stress

  • Sleep Problems

  • Addictions  with underlying trauma and stress

  • Physical Pain related to trauma or stress

  • Feelings of Worthlessness/Low Self-Esteem

  • Attachment and relationship problems related to stress and trauma

  • ...and many more problems that are related to unprocessed or incomplete processing of information in our memories

What happens during an EMDR session via Telehealth?

EMDR utilizes the natural healing ability of your body and specifically your brain.  It is a form of "systematic desensitization" and is designed to be performed in a respectful, sensitive and intentional manner.  Your EMDR therapist "weaves" cognitive  therapy, calming or grounding exercises and relaxation strategies in the beginning stages prior to beginning Eye-Movement or bi-lateral-stimulation of processing/re-processing so that you are able to handle any symptoms that are activated during and between sessions.  Your therapist will perform an assessment and discuss relevant history (which may take 2 or more sessions).  Coping and calming strategies will be explored and re-enforced throughout your treatment.  You will be encouraged to practice them outside of and in-between your sessions.  When you and your therapist decide you are ready to begin the "eye-movement" or bi-lateral stimulation stage of this procedure, your therapist will guide you through the process. 

Keller Heights Counseling/Wellness is primarily telehealth-based and has had much success using a lightbox with an electronic point of light on a monitor.  Experiences during a session may include noticing changes in thoughts, images, and feelings.  There is minimal verbal processing at this stage, but mainly reporting of experiences and continuation of bi-lateral stimulation.

With repeated sets of eye movements -or bilateral stimulation of the brain through the eyes, ears or hands neurologically (separately or simultaneously), the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a more neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also heal through this process. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvement in many aspects of your life.

How long does treatment take?

EMDR can be a brief focused treatment or part of a longer psychotherapy treatment plan. EMDR can be easily integrated with other approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. For best effects, EMDR sessions during the actual reprocessing phases of treatment usually last at least 60 minutes. Positive effects have been seen after one session of EMDR.

What evidence is there that EMDR is a successful treatment?

EMDR is an innovative clinical treatment which has successfully helped millions of individuals. The validity and reliability of EMDR has been established by rigorous research. There are now over nineteen controlled studies into EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method used in treatment of trauma. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Department of Defense, Veteran’s Administration, insurance companies, and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies recognize EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD. For further information about EMDR, check out or

Aileen is trained in EMDR and uses it regularly in her practice.  She has seen amazing healing and positive results in many patients.  If you are interested in trying EMDR in your sessions, please don't hesitate to ask about it, she would be happy to give you more information about it to see if it would be a good fit for you.

Shapiro, F (2001, 2017). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (3rd.ed, in press). New York:  Guilford Press.

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