EMDR, what is it and how is its technique?

The acronym EMDR refers to psychotherapy “desensitization and reprocessing with eye movements”. EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy, prepared by Francine Shapiro (1987).

EMDR therapy works in a person’s information processing system, since various circumstances (accident, abuse, loss, …) have caused a blockage in that system and created a million certain symptoms, such as symptoms of anxiety, negative beliefs, physical or psychological pain, fear, sadness, and so on. Faced with the repression of these events, psychosis can develop over the years.

To learn more about EMDR, continue reading this Psycho-Online article as we provide  EMDR Therapy in London physically in our clinic as well as emdr cloud so we have well explained emdr therapy: what it is, what it includes, and how its techniques work.

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for eye desensitization and reprocessing, the name of therapy in English. Eye desensitization and reprocessing means desensitization and reprocessing with eye movements. EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy, whose goal is to alleviate the suffering of people who have experienced a traumatic event that resulted in certain psychological problems.

EMDR is a very effective intervention in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however, many studies have attested to the effectiveness of EMDR treatment in other psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder. , depression and borderline personality disorder. For example, here you can see how EMDR therapy works for paranoid personality disorder.

The goal of EMDR therapy is to desensitize the person from his or her traumatic memory, to create an integration of these traumatic memories, so that when the event is remembered, they do not create any disturbance. any. It seeks that the person can reach a healthier and more adaptive resolution to an incident, managing with it beliefs, emotions, and dysfunctional behaviors.

This therapy consists of a basic standardized protocol consisting of 8 phases. Treatment seeks to adapt to the greatest extent to the patient, so it is not advisable to follow an established route of literal stages, the order of which can be replaced, according to all criteria. in terms of sensitivity and flexibility throughout the course of treatment to adapt to the patient.

What is EMDR??

The treatment consists of 8 stages of application, aimed at desensitizing the person from the traumatic experience, to reduce the disturbing impact it produces and the dysfunction it causes. Next, we will see what EMDR is and how it works. The order of the application to be protocolized is as follows, taking into account the possibility of interleaving its phases:

History and plans

The first phase of EMDR therapy involves taking a patient history and treatment plan . Like all types of interventions, EMDR is not right for everyone, so the first step is to develop an assessment of the factors that determine whether a treatment is appropriate for each individual patient. . In EMDR, unrecognized traumatic or traumatic memories emerge very quickly, which creates disturbing effects for the patient. Before this information has been suppressed, different components are born such as: feelings, thoughts, present consciousness or physical sensations.

Against this, the criterion that governs this selection is that the person can withstand the high degree of disturbance and the dissociative symptoms that arise.

Once it has been assessed that treatment is appropriate for the patient, it will be determined the traumatic events that have given rise to the current symptomatology and the most important ones will be selected.

A treatment plan must then be drawn up, based on the “Triple Aspect Protocol,” which includes elements of the past, present, and future.

  • Past: past events that have led the person to his or her present dysfunction are analyzed.
  • Current: Valuable factors driving the current disturbance.
  • Future: the goal is to establish a positive cognitive pattern, with the aim of establishing more complete responses.


The second stage of EMDR therapy is to prepare the patient. When working with events that have a major emotional impact on people, it is extremely important to establish a therapy patient alliance. In addition, the therapist must expose the therapy facility , which will be adapted to the patient in question. On the other hand, you will be exposed to different types of possible bilateral stimuli, which will be exposed later, to decide what to expect.


This phase of EMDR aims to explore the traumatic memory , joining it with the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations aroused before it. During this stage, the therapist asks which images are associated with the traumatic event and what are the perceptions that precede this image. Faced with this, the therapist will ask the seeker for positive thinking to replace the negative . This new thinking would represent what patients would like to think about the event or about themselves, as these incidents tend to induce negative beliefs about self-referencing.

The patient must then score from 1 to 7 (7 being the maximum true and 1 false) to the level of positive thinking felt when viewing the memory.

Finally, the person identifies the emotions expressed prior to the traumatic event, using the subjective unit of distress (SUD) scale, which includes their score from 0 to 10 (0 is less difficult). bear the most and 10 the maximum).


In this stage of EMDR, once everything that comes up (emotional, cognitive, and physical sensations) before the traumatic experience is known, the person is asked to imagine the memory, in order to appear emotional. touch, perception, and related physical sensations..

Faced with this, the therapist initiates bilateral stimulation, that is, it establishes a set of finger movements, rapidly at the person’s eye level, for 30-40 seconds, telling the patient to follow up their fingers with their eyes. Once each process of bilateral stimulation was completed, the person was asked to express the thoughts or feelings that were presented to them.

Positive perception settings

The goal of this stage of EMDR is to link positive perceived choice to the traumatic event. The patient is expected to bring the image of the traumatic experience into his or her mind and associate it with the positive perception, while another bilateral arousal is generated. In this case, the time-lapse of the stimulus is shorter, from 10-12 movements.

Exploring the body

Once the person has worked on desensitization of the traumatic event and this is associated with a positive perception, that person should find out if you are still feeling any physical sensations . In case of their presence, you must return to the process until they disappear .

Close the door

During this phase of EMDR, the therapist must expose the possible effects of inhibiting therapy. It is common for new perceptions or bad dreams to occur. Faced with this, the therapist recommends a set of strategies for dealing with such situations.


It is extremely important to lead to a re-evaluation, to observe the effectiveness of the therapy of the previous session. This reevaluation allows setting when it is necessary to continue certain phases of the protocol or if treatment is terminated.

How is EMDR performed?

What are the techniques used by EMDR? EMDR includes three different techniques or three different types of bilateral stimulation, which will be selected according to the individual characteristics of each patient. Three techniques of bilateral stimulation are applied in EMDR as follows:

  • Horizontal saccadic eye movements. Since EMDR is performed using eye movements, this strategy involves a set of therapist fingers at the person’s visual level. The patient must continue to look at the therapist’s fingers, not move the head, and perform a total of 30-40 movements during each performance. The effect of EMDR is greater when this technique is used.
  • Bilateral auditory stimulation: this EMDR technique involves using bilateral audio or music, heard from headphones. The therapist has a device that allows him to control the sounds, their intensity, and their speed.
  • Mining. How does this EMDR technique work? In this case, the therapist gently hits the patient’s knee alternately to the right and left and with the substitution of the person’s hand, supported on the patient’s knee.

Finally, EMDR therapy can be combined with other therapies and techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques.

This article is purely informative, in Psychology Online we do not have a department to diagnose or recommend treatment.