What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of therapy treatment approach that is a different approach to therapy. It leads to faster results than other traditional treatment approaches such as psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral etc.  This is because it works on the memory networks of the brain, and allows for inadequately processed and mal-adaptively stored memories to be reprocessed. Other therapy modalities focus on trying to change the current thought process. EMDR allows for the memories that cause distress, to be ‘neutralized’ and integrated into the memory system as memories that are just that; memories. EMDR does not erase memories but it takes away the component of the memory that is traumatic or has anxiety attached to it.

How are memories processed with EMDR?

In EMDR most of the processing is done within the session rather than as homework or in between session. The clinician asks clients to bring up the disturbing memory, jump-starts the brain’s information processing system by using bilateral stimulation, and guides the procedures, while monitoring the effects on the clients. This type of therapy helps to build internal connections, insights and brings up memories quicker than using other type of talk therapy. The theory behind EMDR is that as the original memory is accessed by the client, connections are made and these are “stored with new modifications in a neurobiological process called “reconsolidation” (Shapiro, 2012, p. 31). EMDR, similar to other types of therapy transform memories into learning experiences and reduce the negative beliefs, emotions and physical sensations of these.

EMDR Similar to REM Sleep

One could compare EMDR to REM sleep. During this type of deep sleep your brain is processing information you have taken in during the day. Let’s say that you had an argument with someone. You feel quite upset and angry and experience all the physical sensations that go along with these types of emotions. You might go to sleep and the next day not feel so bad about what had occurred the day before. During this type of sleep, you ‘digest’ this experience and are able to focus more focus more on the issue and be less reactive. Human brains are wired to process information while we sleep. Our brains connect experiences to other memories and which helps them be better understood. You might wake up having a better idea of how to handle this issue without the intense emotions you felt the night before.

What is EMDR used for originally?

EMDR has been widely used to combat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and trauma in veterans. According to the EMDR Institute, a study funded by the “HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense.According to EMDR Institute some studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.”

What other problems can EMDR help with?

EMDR is not only effective for people with combat PTSD but those that have suffered other types of trauma, for example such as sexual trauma. It is also effective at reducing other disorders such as anxiety and depression. What makes it so effective is that clients process their own disturbances rather than relying on the therapist’s interpretations.

I want to Know More

There are more than 500 different brands of psychotherapy. EMDR is fairly new, it was developed by Francine Shapiro in the 80s. Few psychological treatments have been as widely heralded as EMDR.  ABC’s 20/20 even declared it was an “exciting breakthrough” in the treatment of anxiety and disorders. A lot of research has been done in using this types of therapy, for an annotated list go to http://www.emdr.com/research-overview/. Studies show EMDR treatment does reduce symptoms compared to supportive listening. Some research findings support the idea that it is quicker and more effective than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Is this Type of Therapy Better than Others?

EMDR is very effective and can be used in conjunction with other therapeutic interventions.  Dr. Kreinberg explains that it is important to note that with any type of therapy, the therapeutic relationship is the key. As a therapist that provides this type of treatment along with others and has had experience and training with many other interventions, she finds it is very effective, but it is not something for everyone. Each person has their own story and experience, you have to take this into consideration during treatment planning. Dr. Kreinberg finds that EMDR is a great additional tool and add on type of therapeutic intervention, but therapists should be cautious to not only have enough training in that area, but also be trained in other types of modalities. If you are curious how EMDR could help you, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Kreinberg for a free 15-consultation.


Dr. Monika Kreinberg is the founder of Mind Wellness Center.She offers individual and couples counseling to help people improve the relationship with themselves and with others. Her private practice is located in Miami, Florida. She is a dually licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Mental Health Counselor who uses EMDR as part of her treatment protocol, along with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychoanalysis. She is also a BOARD CERTIFIED SEX THERAPIST, a National Certified Counselor and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional and is considered an expert in her field. Monika is a culturally sensitive therapist who is fluent in five language (English, Spanish, French, Italian and German). She is a member of the American Counseling Association, Therapist Certification Association and the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association. You can read more about her at: Mindwellnesscenter.com and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DrKreinberg, on twitter at https://twitter.com/MindWellness and Instagram at Mindwellnesscenter.com.