What is EMDR?

Author:  Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC  

verified by Psychology Today

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing aims to move disturbance to adaptive resolution. Disturbing events are often the basis of unhealthy, negative symptoms. EMDR is an approach to psychotherapy which incorporates knowledge from many therapeutic approaches. It utilizes an accelerated form of information processing used within a comprehensive treatment plan to promote recovery. EMDR is comprised of 8 phases which address thoughts, emotions, memories and bodily sensations. It uses not only eye movements, but other forms of bilateral stimulation (activation of both sides of the brain) to pair your own adaptive information processing abilities with memory networks. This associative process allows for the alleviation of disruptive symptoms and the enhancement of one’s own sense of well-being.


When something traumatic happens to you, that memory is stored with all five sensory components. These old experiences can cause uncomfortable symptoms in the present when triggered by current experiences. The sensory components of the original memory can create dysfunctional symptoms in the present. There may be times when you feel helpless in the face of these unexpected emotional responses. EMDR is one of the most thoroughly researched methods of therapy. Studies indicate 84-90% of people with a traumatic experience no longer experienced symptoms of PTSD after receiving EMDR treatment.

What issues are appropriate for EMDR?

Problems stemming from early psychological problems Trauma (abuse, neglect, accident, surgery, crime victim, natural disaster).

Performance Enhancement (for work and personal goals).

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PTSD Screening Tool

This screening tool will help you determine if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  This tool is not intended to diagnose PTSD but to serve as a reference to discuss with a counselor or primary care provider.  This assessment is entirely confidential and the results will be emailed to you.

Below is a list of problems associated with stressful and/or traumatic events.  Indicate using the 1-5 scale of severity how much you have been bothered by the problem in the past month:

1. Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or images of a stressful experience from the past.
2. Repeated, disturbing dreams of a stressful experience from the past.
3. Suddenly acting or feeling as if a stressful experience were happening again (as if you were reliving it).
4. Feeling very upset when something reminded you of a stressful experience from the past.
5. Having physical reactions (e.g., heart pounding, trouble breathing, sweating) when something reminded you of a stressful experience from the past.
6. Avoiding thinking about or talking about a stressful experience from the past or avoiding having feelings related to it.
7. Avoiding activities or situations because they reminded you of a stressful experience from the past.
8. Trouble remembering important parts of a stressful experience from the past.
9. Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
10. Feeling distant or cut off from other people.
11. Feeling emotionally numb or being unable to have loving feelings for those close to you.

Feeling as if your future will somehow be cut short.


Trouble falling or staying asleep.


Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts.


Having difficulty concentrating.


Being "super-alert" or watchful or on guard.


Feeling jumpy or easily startled.

This is not intended to diagnose or to replace the care of a health care professional.  This is a screening measure to help you determine whether you might have Post Traumatic Stress disorder.   Source: Weathers FW, et al. (1994). PCL-C for DSM-IV. Boston: National Center for PTSD, Behavioral Science Division. 

CO-OCCURRING DISORDERS PROGRAM: SCREENING AND ASSESSMENT.  Document is in the public domain. Duplicating this material for personal or group use is permissible.

Email required to send results.