EMDR – a safe, easy and effective natural therapy to treat depression, anxiety, stress and trauma

eyesDid you know that doing some simple eye movements can stop the emotional pain from bad memories? Called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), it’s a key treatment for trauma used all over the world by thousands of trained therapists.

Studies show that EMDR is a safe, fast and worthwhile treatment for many problems such as depression, stress, anxiety, phobias, addictions and eating disorders.

The technique works like the rapid eye movement (REM) we have while we sleep. REM is believed to help sort out our problems so that we still remember bad events, but no longer feel the pain linked to them.

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and how does it work?
What is EMDR used for?
How good is EMDR for treating trauma?
How long will EMDR take to work?
Are there any side effects, dangers and complications of EMDR?
Are there any people EMDR is not recommended for?

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and how does it work?

EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment. It was originally developed to help treat the stress from trauma.

During treatment the person thinks about something that upsets them while at the same time moving their eyes left to right and back, between two points, many times. Sounds and tapping might also be added to the treatment.

Patty Pheil explains that Francine Shapiro Ph.D. developed the therapy in 1987. Dr. Shapiro was in a park thinking of some bad memories. She noticed that when she moved her eyes back and forth the strength of the negative emotions of the memories lessened. Studies on EMDR followed and in 1989 Dr. Shapiro said she was having success using EMDR to treat trauma.

The theory is that the rapid eye movement (REM) in EMDR creates similar brain activity to the REM we have during sleep. REM helps process ideas and resolve conflict, so we can work through things that upset us. We still have the bad memories, but no longer feel the emotional pain of the events.

EMDR can be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as a treatment with other therapies, or as the only treatment.

What is EMDR used for?

EMDR has had good results treating many things, such as:

  • addictions
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • fears and phobias
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • grief
  • migraines
  • pain
  • painful memories
  • panic disorders
  • personality disorders
  • physical abuse
  • poor body image
  • post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • sexual abuse
  • sexual problems
  • stress
  • trauma

How good is EMDR for treating trauma?

The EMDR Institute, Inc. in USA says EMDR is “…an effective treatment for trauma.” It “…was placed in the “A” category as “strongly recommended” for the treatment of trauma.”

“EMDR is now widely recognized as a first line treatment of trauma”, according to the EMDR Association of Australia.

The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) claims the therapy “has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma…EMDR has helped an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.”

EMDRIA also says that about 20 controlled studies have researched EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR does decrease/stop the symptoms of post traumatic stress for most clients. Clients often say other associated symptoms, such as anxiety, also improve.

Patty Pheil claims that Dr. Shapiro and other therapists trained in using EMDR say that a few sessions of EMDR can do what many months of traditional talk therapy can do.

How long will EMDR take to work?

The EMDR Institute, Inc. says the number of sessions of EMDR needed depends on the person’s problem and their history.

Repeated controlled studies have shown that a single trauma can be processed within three sessions in 80 to 90% of the participants.

In one controlled study 80% of multiple civilian trauma victims no longer had post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after about six hours of treatment.

A study of combat veterans found that 77% no longer had PTSD after 12 EMDR sessions.

EMDRIA says one or more sessions are needed for the therapist to understand the problem and decide whether EMDR is suitable. The therapist will discuss EMDR more fully and answer questions.

Once the therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is suitable, this treatment can start. Each EMDR session often lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. Not all of this time is spent moving the eyes from left to right and back. Clients also do other things during the session, such as discuss with the therapist how they feel in between each set of eye movements.

Are there any side effects, dangers and complications of EMDR?

The EMDR Institute, Inc. says that with any form of psychotherapy, there may be a temporary increase in distress.

  • Clients might have upsetting and unresolved memories emerge.
  • Some clients react during a treatment session in a way that neither they nor the therapist anticipated, such as feeling a high level of emotion or physical sensation.
  • After the treatment session, the processing of problems may continue, and other dreams, memories, feelings, etc might emerge.

There is no evidence that the eye movements in EMDR will cause seizures, according to the EMDR Institute, Inc.

Are there any people EMDR is not recommended for?

UPMC – one of the leading non-profit health systems in USA – states that special precautions might be needed when offering EMDR to people who:

  • are neurologically impaired
  • are suicidal
  • have psychosis
  • have severe dissociative disorders
  • have unstable substance abuse

People should only have EMDR from certified therapists.

The treatment can impair testimony in legal cases.


Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a good treatment for trauma, anxiety, depression, stress and other problems. It involves moving the eyes left to right and back between two points. It is safe, easy, helpful and relatively fast acting for most.

written by Nyomi Graef

Does EMDR really work?, 2010, EMDR International Association,

EMDR Therapy – An Introduction, 2010, Neuro Innovations,

EMDR Therapy Offers New Hope!, 1998-2006, EMDR-Therapy,

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, 2010, UPMC,

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, 2010, Wikipedia,

Frequently Asked Questions, 2010, EMDR Institute, Inc,

How Does EMDR Work?, 2010, EMDR Association United Kingdom and Ireland,

How long does EMDR take?, 2010, EMDR International Association,

Research on EMDR, 2010, EMDR Association of Australia,

The Efficacy of EMDR, 2010, EMDR Institute, Inc,

What is EMDR?, 2010, EMDR International Association,

What kind of problems can EMDR treat?, 2010, EMDR International Association,

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3 Responses to “EMDR – a safe, easy and effective natural therapy to treat depression, anxiety, stress and trauma”

  1. Natural Therapist UK says:

    I just came onto your post and found it quite interesting. I am also associated with Back Logic, Homeopathy, Physical and Natural Therapist, specialising in homeopathy, sports massage, recovery from injury, diet and nutritional advice, postural assessment in the Surrey and London area and enjoy to read the stuff on the same as its rarely found on internet. Thanks again for writing such a good post.

  2. An emdr therapy training course is what my brother invited me to. He talked about the course teaching others on treating anxiety, depression, and other mental issues. These issues has me thinking of my son’s health problem.

  3. Nyomi says:

    Hi Andre,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I hope EMDR works for your son.

    Best wishes,


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