EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR involves guided eye movements (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) while the person recalls distressing memories. This bilateral stimulation is believed to help process traumatic memories and reduce their emotional charge.

EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy has shown promising results in alleviating trauma-related symptoms, especially in those diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

This guide highlights the following issues:

  • What is EMDR?
  • How does EMDR work?
  • How to connect with EMDR treatment in Southern California.
Note: Connections does not currently offer EMDR, however we are in the process of adding this highly sought-after modality to our program. Call our admissions team for more info. 
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What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is a powerful and comprehensive psychotherapy designed to enable healing from past experiences that impact mental health and overall well-being.

This therapeutic approach combines talk therapy with side-to-side eye movements in a structured format. By utilizing these techniques, EMDR trauma therapy enables people to effectively process negative images, emotions, beliefs, and bodily sensations associated with traumatic memories that have become stuck, possibly leading to various mental health challenges.

EMDR empowers people to gain a fresh perspective on these experiences, offering relief from the distressing symptoms that they may have been enduring. Through this process, EMDR aims to support the journey towards improved mental and emotional health.

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Effectiveness of EMDR

EMDR counseling is commonly advised for those grappling with overwhelming traumatic memories and experiencing symptoms of PTSD. It can be particularly beneficial for people who find it challenging to open up about trauma to others, including therapists.

While there is limited evidence supporting the effectiveness of EMDR for other mental health conditions, some mental health professionals might still recommend it as a potential treatment for:

Panic attacks
Eating disorders

EMDR could also be beneficial for those with a history of trauma and certain conditions like bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, psychosis, anxiety disorders, and lower back pain.

Overall, EMDR seems to be a safe intervention for addressing various mental health symptoms. That said, more extensive research in the future may provide more definitive support for its effectiveness.

What Can EMDR Treat?

EMDR is a versatile psychotherapy technique that has shown significant effectiveness in treating a wide range of mental health conditions and emotional challenges. Here are some of the key issues that EMDR can effectively address:

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

EMDR is most noted for its success in treating PTSD. Whether the trauma stems from a single distressing event or prolonged exposure to traumatic experiences, EMDR for PTSD can help people process and desensitize the distressing memories associated with the trauma. This often results in a reduction of PTSD symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and emotional reactivity.

Anxiety disorders

EMDR has been proven effective in treating various anxiety disorders, such as GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias. By addressing the underlying traumatic experiences and negative beliefs driving anxiety, EMDR for anxiety helps people regain a sense of safety and confidence in facing their fears.


EMDR can be a valuable tool in treating depression, especially when it is related to unresolved trauma. By processing distressing memories and negative self-beliefs, people can experience a shift in their self-perception and find relief from depressive symptoms.

Childhood trauma

Early adverse experiences like childhood abuse or neglect can significantly impact emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships. EMDR offers an effective approach to address and heal these childhood traumas, allowing people to break free from the cycle of emotional pain and build healthier coping mechanisms.

Grief and loss

The grieving process can be complex and overwhelming, especially when the loss is sudden or traumatic. EMDR can help people process unresolved grief and find a sense of closure, acceptance, and meaning in the face of loss.


Trauma is often an underlying factor contributing to addictive behaviors. EMDR can be used as part of addiction treatment to address the traumatic experiences that may be driving the addictive cycle. By targeting the root causes of addiction, EMDR can help reduce cravings and promote lasting recovery.

Phobias and fears

Both irrational fears and specific phobias can be effectively treated with EMDR. By processing the distressing memories and associations related to the phobia, individuals can experience a reduction in fear and avoidance behaviors.

Performance anxiety

MDR has been utilized to address performance anxiety in athletes, musicians, public speakers, and others facing high-pressure situations. By targeting the underlying traumatic experiences and negative beliefs related to performance, EMDR can improve self-confidence and performance outcomes.

Body image issues

Negative body image and self-esteem issues can stem from past experiences of trauma or societal pressures. EMDR can help people reprocess these experiences and develop a healthier and more positive relationship with their bodies.

Relationship challenges

EMDR can be beneficial in addressing relationship difficulties, especially when they are influenced by past traumas or negative beliefs about self or others. By processing these experiences, it is possible to improve communication, trust, and emotional intimacy.

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If you have been feeling any of these symptoms, and you are in need of help, please give our friendly team a call.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR is a structured and comprehensive psychotherapy approach that incorporates several distinct phases to streamline the processing and healing of traumatic or distressing memories. The therapy, developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, aims to help people reprocess and integrate traumatic experiences that have been stored in the brain in an unprocessed and distressing manner. The process involves using bilateral stimulation, such as side-to-side eye movements, to facilitate the adaptive processing of memories.
History taking and treatment planning

The first phase of EMDR involves building a therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. During this stage, the EMDR therapist gathers comprehensive information about the client’s history, trauma or distressing experiences, current symptoms, and specific treatment goals. This information helps the therapist tailor the EMDR treatment to the person’s unique needs.


In this phase, the therapist educates the client about the EMDR process, explaining how the therapy works and what to expect during the sessions. The therapist emphasizes the importance of creating a sense of safety and developing healthy coping strategies to manage emotional distress during and between sessions. This preparation helps the client feel more comfortable and prepared for the deeper therapeutic work ahead.


The assessment phase of EMDR involves identifying specific target memories that are related to the client’s distressing symptoms or issues. These target memories will be the focus of the EMDR session. The therapist helps the client identify the negative beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations associated with each target memory.


During the desensitization phase, the client holds the target memory in mind while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, which could be side-to-side eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones. The therapist guides the client through this process to boost the adaptive processing of the memory. As the memory is reprocessed, the emotional charge and distress associated with it gradually decrease.


In this phase, the therapist helps the client strengthen positive beliefs and emotions related to the target memory. This involves replacing the negative beliefs associated with the memory with more positive and self-affirming beliefs. The goal is to promote emotional healing and resilience.

Adaptability to various conditions

Originally designed to treat borderline personality disorder, DBT has demonstrated its versatility in helping individuals with a wide range of mental health conditions. Whether it’s depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, or eating disorders, DBT’s evidence-based techniques can be adapted to address specific challenges effectively.

Body Scan

After the desensitization and installation phases, the therapist and client work together to identify any residual physical tension or discomfort associated with the target memory. The bilateral stimulation is used to process and alleviate any remaining physical distress.


At the end of each EMDR session, therapist ensures that the client feels emotionally stable and grounded. If any unfinished processing is present, the therapist provides strategies to help the client cope until the next session.


In subsequent sessions, EMDR therapists review progress and reevaluate the client’s symptoms, beliefs, and emotional responses to ensure that the therapy is effectively addressing the targeted issues. If necessary, the therapist may reprocess additional target memories to achieve comprehensive healing.

The structured and phased approach of EMDR allows people to work through traumatic memories and distressing experiences at a pace that feels safe and manageable. By integrating the adaptive information processing system of the brain, EMDR helps people move toward greater emotional health, resilience, and a more positive outlook on life. Resultantly, EMDR has become a widely recognized and evidence-based therapy for trauma and various other mental health challenges.


Is EMDR evidence-based?

Yes, EMDR is considered an evidence-based therapy for treating PTSD by various mental health organizations and many research studies.

EMDR bilateral stimulation?

EMDR bilateral stimulation involves using side-to-side eye movements or other forms of alternating stimuli to facilitate the processing of traumatic memories in EMDR therapy.

What does EMDR stand for?

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

How can EMDR help with mental health disorders?

EMDR can help with mental health disorders by helping people process and resolve distressing memories and experiences. It has been especially effective for the treatment of PTSD, but it may also be beneficial for other conditions like anxiety, depression, and phobias. The therapy aims to reduce the emotional charge associated with traumatic memories, leading to a reduction in symptoms and an improvement in overall well-being.

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Get EMDR Therapy for Mental Health Disorders at Connections

If you or a loved one needs help stabilizing from a mental health disorder, our evidence-based treatments at Connections Mental Health in Southern California provide an effective way to begin healing. Connections does not currently offer EMDR, however we are in the process of adding this highly sought-after modality to our program. Call our admissions team for more info. 

We appreciate that all mental health issues are unique, and we offer compassionate and personalized treatment that blends science-backed and holistic interventions to treat the whole person rather than just their symptoms.

Take advantage of initiating a full recovery in our well-appointed and welcoming treatment center. Here, you can find the comforts of home combined with continuous clinical and emotional care.

Call us today at (844) 413-0009 to learn more about our flexible inpatient treatment plans and begin your journey to healing at Connections Mental Health in California.

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