EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Traumatic experiences can have a major impact on life. Even if the event has long been forgotten, traumas make themselves felt through symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sometimes even panic states and chronic pain in our daily life’s. Trauma is a survival protective reflex, that freezes fundamental processes including our natural emotion regulation within life threatening situations. Because of this, there is no such thing as a simple forgetting for our body. The blockage resulting from the experience and most parts of the so-called freeze can persists even without our memory afterwards. This may lead into a hindering of a healthy ’emotional brain’ until the end of life. Even when the cause of the original incident is known or memorized, the blockages associated with the trauma do not just go away. Unfortunately many therapy methods do also not help. They are tedious costly and painful.


EMDR is one of the effective treatment methods. It releases deep-seated traumatic blockages by specific the eye movements, often only within one session. The so-called ‘Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing’ EMDR was developed in 1988 by Francine Shapiro. For a long time however, the method has not received attention in psychotherapeutic practice. Partly this is caused through the fact, that the precise functioning still misses a scientific explanation.

In an EMDR session, the eye movements are synchronized from left to right. As a rule, the patient follows the guidance of the therapist with his eyes. Other stimuli such as typing with the hand can be added. The patient is asked to evoke the images of what has been experienced or at least feelings that are so stressful for him. As one can see under the thomograph, the memory of the traumatic experience activates the amygdala. The amygdala is part of our ‘reptilian brain’ and plays a key role in the processing of memories, in making decisions and in emotional reactions including fear and aggression. However, the memory also activates the ‘visual cortex’ as an imaging processing device (the language center switched off).

In a special way, this visual cortex is addressed with the eye movements guided in the treatment. To dissolve the blockages through the eyes, Francine Shapiro simulated the movements in a way in which they behave during deep sleep with the ‚REM‘ (Rapid Eye Movement) phase. The so activated cortex releases the emotions apparently blocked via the amygdala after only a short time. The treatment is supported by discussions and observation. No additional drugs or medications are used.

Still more and more psychotherapists are using the treatment due to its high effectiveness, especially for acute and painful trauma (PTSD).

Here, as in all methods of effective re-traumatization, the patient or the therapist cannot influence the next healing step or the exact trauma to be released. The ‚Inner Healer‘ of the patient specifies the process and thus also the order in which to move foreword.