What Is EMDR?

Discovered and developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a method of psychotherapy that enables people to heal from symptoms of trauma.


Unresolved trauma can get stuck in the body, leading to distressing physical and emotional symptoms. Memories stuck in our short-term memory can cause reoccurring flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and unwelcome sensations. EMDR addresses both of these issues. Employing a combination of cognitive therapy and body (somatic) therapy, EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (working both sides of our bodies and both hemispheres of our brain) to reorganize (or re-file) memories to a more useful and less intrusive place in our minds. The bilateral stimulation can be left eye/right eye tracking or tapping (tactile stimulation), which releases emotional experiences trapped in the nervous system and short-term memory.

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 the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense, among other accredited organizations.

Who Can Benefit From EMDR?

Anyone who has experienced trauma, regardless of severity or duration. In other words, most of us.

What Is Trauma? Do I Have Trauma?

Trauma is psychological pain that resides in the nervous system. The four Trauma categories are: Big T, Little T, Cumulative and Developmental.

“Big T” trauma usually results from life-threatening events that might meet criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which are:

  • Childhood abuse

  • Car accidents

  • Natural Disasters

  • Acts of violence

  • War

  • Sexual assaults

“Little t” Trauma results from experiences that make us feel unsafe or unloved, such as moments of humiliation, bullying, failures and losses. In children, this trauma can come from being teased or falling off a bike. Little t can also result from:

  • Minor or routine surgeries

  • Dental procedures

  • Animal bites

  • Divorce

  • The death of a loved one

Little t also can follow pleasant or joyful, but nonetheless major, life transitions, such as:

  • Pregnancy

  • Birth

  • Marriage


Cumulative trauma is chronic and prolonged, resulting from:

  • Ongoing childhood abuse

  • Racism

  • Sexism

  • Poverty

  • Domestic violence

  • Systemic oppression

  • Military involvement

Developmental Trauma comes from negative childhood experiences in which parents or caregivers have neglected, abandoned or abused a child in the first three years of his or her lives. This disrupts the cognitive, neurological and psychological development of the child and makes connection and attachment with adults challenging. As the child grows up, they might continue to find it difficult to form positive relationships because they have no healthy model of what “healthy” is supposed to be or feel like.

I invite you to call me at 323-539-7717 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation. You can ask any questions you have about EMDR treatment and my practice.