What if I told you that there is a psychotherapy tool that can help you with trauma, anxiety, phobias, self-esteem, and so much more? EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a fantastic psychotherapeutic technique that can do just that!

To learn a bit more about it, I sat down with Sheila Ennin, a Registered Psychologist at Cornerstone Counselling, to talk about all things EMDR.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a psychotherapeutic technique that can be used alone or as a tool in conjunction with other forms of psychotherapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

When traumatic or emotionally charged experiences happen, they can be challenging to process and without processing these events, a variety of psychological problems can result. EMDR can help you work through processing traumatic or emotionally-charged experiences that block you from healing.

How does EMDR work?

During any given day, you are constantly being exposed to sensory stimuli and other information that has to be processed. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the part of the sleep cycle where you are dreaming, and it’s important because it’s where you process much of this information. Some events can be processed no problem, but the emotionally-charged or traumatic experiences can be challenging to process during this time.

EMDR mimics what’s happening when you are in REM sleep when we update our neural networks. Updating is needed because psychological problems come from negative emotional networks that cannot link, blend, and consolidate information with adaptive functional networks — kind of like an emotional blockade.

EMDR uses eye movement, tapping, or even certain noises (like buzzing) to stimulate both the left and right sides of the brain (called bilateral stimulation or BLS). Using BLS allows the negative and functional neural networks to link and blend, promoting adaptive learning and helpful perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours — essentially knocking down those emotional barriers!

Who can benefit from EMDR?

The range of problems that EMDR can help with is truly incredible. To name a few, EMDR can help with various kinds of trauma, anxiety, phobia, self-esteem, addictions, and even migraines! With such a wide variety of applications, the shorter answer is what type of EMDR is suitable for you.

There are several different types of EMDR techniques that lie on what’s called a processing continuum — they basically map certain types of traumas or issues.

  • A-TIP, or acute traumatic incident processing, is the shortest form used immediately after a traumatic experience to reduce acute emotional activation, protecting from later effects of trauma.
  • EMD and EMD^ (unrestricted processing) is the second shortest form and is used for single-incident traumatic scenarios.
  • EMDr (contained processing) is a bit longer and is used for people who need to expand on more traumatic or emotional events in their lives.
  • The longest form is EMDR (unrestricted processing), which takes about 7 or 8 sessions and is used when a person has a wider variety of past and future concerns.

Overall, EMDR is an amazing psychotherapy tool that is widely applicable to many people and problems. If you’re interested in trying it, contact us to find a counsellor that can help you decide if it’s right for you!


Blog post by Ally Nelson, Volunteer.

Our EMDR-trained Counsellors