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EMDR Therapy, What is it?

The acronym EMDR, means “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing”, that is, desensitization and reprocessing of traumatic memories/experiences.

It was developed by Francine Shapiro (Ph.D.) in the United States, in 1987. It is a relatively new therapy that has been in development mostly in the last 10 years. It is based on neuroscience studies, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and advised by the American Psychological Association (APA) as one of the most recommended methods for the treatment of Traumatic Post-Stress Disorder.

EMDR therapy stands out for being a brief intervention focused on reprocessing and desensitizing past memories related to emotional trauma and/or extreme anxiety.

What is trauma?

In our lives, there are situations for which we do not have sufficient psychological resources to deal with them. This lack of psychological resources can exist for several reasons:

  1. Because we were very young and we had not yet built the resources to deal with adversity;

  2. Because we were not in a position to be able to process the events that happened;

  3. Because the event was very intense or happened unexpectedly (deaths, abrupt relationships, natural disasters, etc.).

Thus, memories related to these situations that have not been processed properly may arise. They are isolated and cannot be added to the rest of the memories in an appropriate or adaptive way.

In addition to the treatment of Traumatic Post-Stress Disorder, EMDR therapy is indicated for the treatment of depressive disorders, anxiety, panic, compulsions, pain, mourning, fears and phobias, among others.

How does an EMDR session work?

At some point in therapy, it will be time to start a typical EMDR session, which may seem strange to someone who tries it for the first time.

During a session, the patient is asked to follow with the eyes, describing straight lines, the movements that the therapist makes in the air with the fingers in opposite directions. At the same time, the patient should focus on a predetermined traumatic memory previously addressed. The patient must be very attentive to his bodily sensations connected with the traumatic event and which may appear at any moment, while the gaze travels through his visual field.

Bilateral stimulation (so called because it is done on both sides of the body) can also be tactile (light touch on the knees, for example) or sound. This stimulation allows the patient to remain focused in the present moment, while having access to traumatic memories that can be painful.

What is the effect of EMDR?

By promoting the reprocessing of emotionally traumatic experiences, the processing of experiences is reinforced in an adaptive way: remembering a memory without the disturbing effect. According to the EMDR-Portugal Association, "the natural processing of information is restored and after the application of EMDR, the psychosensory perception no longer manifests as before when the traumatic event is brought to mind. Memories are still remembered but the disturbing effect disappears. EMDR recreates what happens naturally during dream or sleep in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase and can be seen as a physiologically based therapy, which helps the person to face and live the traumas in a new way and without the disturbing effects."

EMDR therapy is not restricted to bilateral stimulation. It is a complete therapy, respecting the characteristics of each person and taking into account the patient's life history, singularities and psychological, family and social resources.


With therapeutic intervention, the person is able to feel a greater distance from the traumatic memory and is able to gather resources to reassess the experience. An adaptive link is created between the past, present and future, generating a feeling of cohesion and adaptation to life.

You can contact us to schedule your EMDR therapy sessions!

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