What is EMDR?

When traumatic experiences are unprocessed, they become “stuck” or stored in the brain in an ineffective way. This leads to a variety of emotional concerns such as anxiety and depression or psychological difficulties such as believing “I’m not good enough”. This negative belief can then lead to self-sabotaging behaviors and relationship problems. EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a type of therapy that helps individuals process distressing memories and experiences. EMDR was originally developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it’s now used to provide trauma therapy for many types of trauma and a wide range of mental health issues.

During EMDR therapy sessions, the therapist guides the individual through bilateral stimulation, which can involve finger movements or other sensory or somatic methods such as listening to alternating sounds or gentle tapping, to name a few. This bilateral stimulation helps the brain reprocess trauma memories, reducing their emotional charge and allowing the individual to integrate them into their broader memory network in a healthier way. EMDR therapy is often praised for its effectiveness, particularly in treating symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and intrusive negative thoughts that are related to traumatic experiences. 

A common misconception about EMDR therapy is that it requires an individual to give detailed descriptions or relive the trauma in the therapy session. This is simply untrue.

EMDR therapy does not include extended exposure to the distressing memory and does not require detailed descriptions of the trauma. 

Unlike traditional psychotherapy, EMDR therapy uses a structured eight-phase approach that includes:

Phase 1: History-taking

In this phase of EMDR, the Therapist will structure the therapy session to getting a full history, conducting appropriate assessment, and identifying targets for treatment. The therapist and client work together in this phase of EMDR to identify the past traumatic experiences, current triggers for them, and future goals.

Phase 2: Preparing the client

The therapist introduces the client to bilateral stimulation components, ensures that the client has adequate coping resources and supports the client to develop new coping strategies, in this phase of EMDR therapy.

Phase 3: Assessing the target memory

During this phase of EMDR therapy, the components of a traumatic experience: image, cognition, affect and body sensation are assessed.

Phases 4-7: Reprocessing the memory

These phases of EMDR involve desensitization to reprocess the memory and reduce its intensity, association of healthy beliefs to the experience such as “I am worthy of love and care”, and body scanning to resolve any associated body sensations.

Phase 8: Evaluating EMDR treatment results

The next session starts with phase eight, re-evaluation, during which the therapist evaluates the client’s current psychological state, whether treatment effects have been maintained, what memories may have emerged since the last session, and works with the client to identify targets for the current session.

How Effective is EMDR?

EMDR therapy has been extensively researched, and numerous studies by the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Institute Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the EMDR International Institute (EMDRIA) have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating various mental health conditions.

EMDR therapy is primarily used to treat trauma-related conditions, particularly Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, it has also been found to be effective in addressing a wide range of other mental health issues, including:

1. Anxiety Disorders: EMDR therapy can help individuals cope with various anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and specific phobias.

2. Depression: EMDR therapy may be beneficial for individuals experiencing depression, especially when depression is linked to past traumatic experiences.

3. Addiction Recovery: EMDR therapy can be integrated into intensive addiction treatment programs to address underlying trauma or triggers that contribute to substance abuse or addictive behaviors.

4. Grief and Loss: EMDR therapy can help individuals process and cope with the grief and loss associated with the death of a loved one, divorce, or other significant life changes.

5. Performance Enhancement: EMDR therapy has been used to help individuals improve performance in various areas of life, such as academics, athletics, public speaking, and creative endeavors, by addressing performance-related anxiety or past negative experiences.

6. Chronic Pain Management: EMDR therapy may be beneficial in helping individuals manage chronic pain by addressing the psychological factors contributing to pain perception and coping mechanisms.

While EMDR therapy is generally considered effective for both telehealth and in-person trauma therapy, its outcomes can vary depending on factors such as the severity of the individual’s symptoms, their readiness for treatment, their motivation for change, and the skill of the therapist. 

Melanated Womens Health, LLC has qualified EMDR therapists who are currently accepting new clients. If you or someone you know have been considering EMDR therapy, contact us to learn more about how one of our available EMDR trained therapists could be of support. 


American Psychological Association (2017). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing

Get Started Today


2133 Arch Street, Suite 304
Philadelphia, PA 19103