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What is EMDR and who is it for? 

What is EMDR?

EMDR “Desensitization and Reprocessing by Eye Movement”.
Initially developed in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro, this therapeutic technique has become popular for its effectiveness in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. 
EMDR follows a therapeutic procedure with the particularity of using bilateral stimulation (which can be visual, tactile or sound). It would have the ability to recode negatively encoded images, perceptions and memories in the patient’s emotional brain and thus reduce their negative impact on the individual’s life.

EMDR - Principles and Purpose

The objective of EMDR is to decrease the emotional burden associated with a traumatic memory in the patient. To this end, the patient must immerse himself in his stressful emotions while the therapist periodically and regularly interrupts the experience in order to provoke sensory stimuli (finger movements in front of the eyes during the Rapid Eye Movement phase). 
These stimuli allow the traumatic information to be restructured in the patient’s cortex and no longer in the limbic brain, which is linked to emotions. In the case of post-traumatic stress disorder, the memory at the origin of the trauma could not be processed by the patient’s cortex; the patient then over-invests his emotional brain, which leads to the appearance of symptoms and their persistence. The recoding induced by eye movements reduces the emotional load associated with the memory.

Who is EMDR for ?

EMDR is used to generate positive feelings, to facilitate awareness and to change beliefs and behaviours. This therapeutic technique is particularly indicated to reduce symptoms related to post-traumatic stress.
EMDR is also indicated in the treatment of chronic pain, and the results are encouraging. EMDR is also indicated for the treatment of chronic pain, with encouraging results. EMDR is believed to reduce painful sensations by improving the physical and emotional perception of pain, and to reduce negative affects, anxiety and depression levels related to pain.
Finally, this therapeutic technique may be indicated in the treatment of phobic symptoms. 

Conduct of an EMDR session

EMDR, due to its strong effect on the patient’s psyche, requires, first, a preparation phase during which the practitioner and the patient must:

  • build a therapeutic relationship of trust with your practitioner;

  • identify with him a current problem likely to be treated in EMDR, then the traumatic memories at the origin of these difficulties;

  • and finally to set up psycho-bodily emotional stabilization tools that can be used during the session as well as in autonomous practice between sessions.


At the start of the session, the practitioner asks the patient to focus on the traumatic memory to be treated, keeping in mind the most disturbing sensory aspects (image, sound, smell, physical sensation), as well as thoughts and feelings. negative that he associates with it.

The practitioner then performs a rapid alternating bilateral stimulation series. Between each series, the patient says what comes to mind. The patient has no effort to make during the stimulation to obtain this or that type of result, the event retreats spontaneously and differently for each person according to his experience, his personality, his resources, and his culture.

The practitioner continues the stimulations until the memory no longer generates disturbances but is put at a distance, “erased”, and has lost its vividness. Then, always with rapid alternating bilateral stimulations, he helps the patient to associate this memory with a positive, constructive, peaceful thought, and to evacuate any unpleasant physical remains.

An EMDR session lasts on average 60 to 90 minutes, which can sometimes generate intense emotions in the patient. He can also feel a marked improvement at the end of the session.