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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Lianne Perry, MA, MSc., RCC

What is EMDR?

Picture it: you’re casually walking in your living room one day and you stub your toe on the coffee table.  You might jump, yell, utter a profanity or two, or cry, depending on how badly you stubbed it. After all, it hurts!  Your brain then goes to work, without you being aware, and processes what happened, such that the next day, you might not even remember it or think about it.  On the other hand, you might remember it. You might even tell a friend, “Boy, I stubbed my toe yesterday and it really hurt!”, but you probably don’t take the memory of that event into the future and dwell on it in any way, or consciously/unconsciously base future decisions on the “toe-stubbing incident”, as it were.  It got processed and filed away somewhere in your brain in a file folder marked “Stubbed toes".

When something traumatic happens, the brain sometimes becomes stuck and doesn’t do its processing job the way it’s supposed to. You may be left with lingering thoughts, memories, sensations, feelings, or behaviours, conscious or unconscious, that are related to that unprocessed event.  The trauma that occurred might be “Capital T” Trauma (major horrific events like rape, combat, or your life being threatened in some way) or “small t” trauma (smaller, everyday events like the repeated, negative messages a little girl might receive that result in her becoming an adult who never believes she's worthy or good enough). Simply put, trauma is anything over a person's ability to understand or master in the moment. It's not necessarily the event itself, it's what it feels like inside, what you tell yourself about it, that matters.

This is where EMDR can come in.  By stimulating the right and left hemispheres of the brain in a systematic, bilateral way, either through eye movements, tapping, or with tones, the emotional disturbance that is associated with the traumatic event is removed.  The negative beliefs associated with that emotional disturbance can then be replaced with more positive, healthy ones. You probably won’t forget about the Trauma or trauma that occurred, but you may remember it in a completely different way, devoid of all of the negative and charged emotions that may have been there before.  Put simply, EMDR helps kick-start the brain to do what it’s designed to do in the first place.

Here is a short video about how EMDR works.

EMDR can be useful for treating things like PTSD, anxiety, depression, performance anxiety, panic attacks, and peak performance, to name a few.  To be a good candidate for EMDR, you need to be willing to tolerate some strong emotions that may come up, temporarily, and be able to commit to 80-minute sessions a minimum of once every two weeks while a “target” is being attended to.  Length of therapy ranges from three sessions to several sessions, depending upon the nature of the problem and the individual client. Note: sessions are ideally scheduled for 80 minutes, which is longer than the typical, 50-minute individual session, however, EMDR usually requires less sessions overall than more traditional types of talk therapy.  

Are you a performer or athlete trying to overcome some kind of performance block or concern?  Are you someone who struggles with self-esteem or anxiety? Do you wonder why you keep finding yourself in the same, undesirable situations or relationships in your life?  

Contact Lianne Perry, RCC online at to see if EMDR might be right for you.   



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