What is EMDR Therapy?

The story of EMDR Therapy

Two eyes girl

EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach originated by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., to treat trauma.

In 1987, Francine Shapiro first discovered the premise of what we now understand as EMDR therapy. Reportedly, she was taking a walk in the park one day when she realized that her eye movements appeared to decrease the negative emotions associated with her own distressing memories (Shapiro, 1989). She soon after theorized the idea of Eye Movement Desensitization, which would become Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

A narrative of Shapiro’s history and her work of EMDR therapy is available at the Francine Shapiro Library.

A Researched and Supported Practice

Shapiro was a champion of research and worked tirelessly to support the theories and protocols of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy.

Continuing research upholds the efficacy of EMDR therapy, especially in its treatment of trauma-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive or anxious comorbid symptoms. Because of its strong supportive ongoing research, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense (2017) “strongly recommend EMDR” for the treatment of trauma (p. 6), citing strong evidence for the protocol’s use from clinical trials. EMDR therapy is also recommended as the treatment of choice by the World Health Organization (2013) for children, adolescents, and adults. The Israeli National Council for Mental Health (2002) and the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2018) placed EMDR therapy as one of the empirically supported treatments for adult PTSD. Within its Clinical Practice Guidelines, EMDR therapy is conditionally recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA) (2017) to treat PTSD.

The AIP Model and Eight Phase Protocol

EMDR therapy is guided by the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) Model which posits that inadequately processed memories, when triggered, result in psychological symptoms. A predominantly individual treatment, this therapy is shorter in term than traditional talk therapy and does not require the “homework” associated with other CBT models. However, it can be used with couples, families, and children.

The standardized eight-phase protocol practiced by EMDR therapy clinicians targets the maladaptively linked memory and reprocesses it using bilateral stimulation. The result is decreased distress around the memory and diminished psychological symptoms.

Training the Next Generation of EMDR Therapy Clinicians

The legacy of Francine Shapiro’s work lives on as the next generation of psychotherapists train in EMDR therapy and practice within their communities. EMDR Professional Training, led by Curt Rouanzoin, Ph.D., and Michelle Gottlieb, Psy.D., supports the next generation with the goal of training EMDR therapists with the highest standards of EMDR therapy education, upholding the original work of Dr. Shapiro while taking note of ongoing research. As a continuing education provider, EMDR Professional Professional Training provides EMDR Basic Training, advanced EMDR therapy courses, a supportive membership community for clinicians, EMDR Certification program, and advanced modules for those desiring to become Approved Consultants, Facilitators, and Trainers.

Training in EMDR therapy is a choice many clinicians make simply because they are frustrated by the lack of progress in their clients, or they’ve noticed something missing in their education as they work with those progress in their clients, or they’ve noticed something missing in their education as they work with those plagued by trauma-related issues. Training in EMDR therapy allows clinicians to bring mental health to those who are suffering by opening pathways for the brain to heal itself.

More Information

Find current and ongoing EMDR research at the following websites:

See the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA):

See the full explanation of EMDR and the experience of EMDR Therapy:

See the American Psychological Association (APA) regarding EMDR Therapy:

If you’d like to know more about the training and education provided for clinicians at EMDR Professional Training. Email us at: info@emdrprofessionaltraining.com or call: 949-445-6548.

emdr_professionalTraining logo

Want to receive regular updates on Basic and Advanced Training?

Want to see the EMDR Basic Training Schedule?

Already EMDR trained?

Ready for Advanced Learning?