EMDR therapy

Applications of EMDR therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapeutic treatment method and framework used in Finland since 1996. The field of application of the method today is wide, covering the treatment of many mental symptoms and disorders, as well as mental coaching. Mindroot’s EMDR experts have many years of experience using EMDR therapy in the following contexts, for example:

  • Burn-out and stress
  • Attachment trauma
  • Relationship difficulties
  • School bullying and other early traumas
  • Serious illness
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Sports and other coaching related to demanding performance
  • Experiences of accidents
  • Experiences of violence
  • Experiences related to police interrogation and trials
  • Refugee status
  • Sexuality

Many of the above experiences cause mental disorders in which a person’s mood, emotions, thoughts, bodily reactions, or behaviour impair the person’s ability to function, interpersonal relationships, and cause suffering to the person themselves and others. Mental disorders treated with EMDR therapy include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Complicated grief

What is EMDR therapy based on?

Mental disorders are often caused by a variety of difficult experiences and associated intolerable emotions - such as fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, shame, guilt or helplessness. EMDR therapy is based on the adaptive information processing (AIP) model. According to this model, topical problems are the result of past negative experiences that are stored in memory networks in an inappropriate way. EMDR therapy targets the treatment of memories that disturb a person and the associated cognitions, emotions, and bodily sensations at the same time as the patient is given a bilateral stimulus that promotes treatment. The objective of therapy is to restart the information processing system and to adapt the emotions and cognitions associated with the event and the images associated with it into neutral and non-disturbing emotional components.

In coaching, EMDR therapy often targets future stressful events and the associated treatment of cognitions, emotions, and bodily sensations using bilateral stimulus. The objective of EMDR coaching is to adapt the perception of stress and other images that cause negative emotions, and the processing of related emotions and cognitions of a future event to be neutral and non-disruptive emotional components.

Why is a bilateral stimulus used in EMDR therapy?

In EMDR therapy, the memories behind the customer’s challenges and symptoms are selected for re-treatment. When the information processing system is stimulated by bilateral stimulus (usually with a series of eye movements, but auditory or sensory stimuli can also be used), with the disturbing memory simultaneously in the customer’s mind, it integrates into a larger, adaptive memory network. At the same time, the negative image of oneself associated with the memory loses its meaning.

What are the effects of EMDR therapy?

Successful EMDR therapy has been proven by research to have both neurobiological and psychological effects, making a distressing and disturbing memory emotionally neutral while binding a positive belief in the person themselves. The phenomenon can be described by saying that EMDR can be used to erase unnecessary, harmful and inappropriate memory material from the memory system. Typically, customers describe the experience of the event in the following ways:

“That memory goes further away, I cannot get a hold of it anymore”

“It does not feel that bad anymore”

“It has a bit like a fog curtain, I cannot see it clearly”

Negative beliefs related to the customer’s memory can be turned into more positive ones as a result of the treatment, e.g.

“I suck” -> “I am good enough”

“I am not enough -> I am enough”

“I am in danger” -> “I am safe”

“I will die” -> “I made it”

How does treatment proceed?

EMDR-therapy proceeds in eight phases:

  1. Mapping the patient’s history, possible symptom measurements, and treatment planning.
  2. Preparatory stage: the patient is introduced to the mechanisms and procedures of EMDR therapy, and their mental resources are strengthened, for example, through a safe place exercise.
  3. Subjective evaluation of the event to be processed, which proceeds step by step as follows: The customer selects a memory (event) to be processed and the associated image that best represents the disturbance associated with the memory. Together with the therapist, the customer seeks a negative cognition suitable for the image, which indicates the negative and irrational belief of oneself in relation to that event (for example, “I am vulnerable”). The customer seeks a positive cognition suitable for the image, which is more positive and realistic experience of oneself in relation to that event (for example, “I am strong”). The customer evaluates the reality of the positive cognition at the affect level relative to the image on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 = not true at all and 7 = completely true. The customer evaluates the intensity of the feeling of disturbance associated with the event on a scale of 0 to 10 of subjective disturbance unit, where 10 = maximum disturbance and 0 = neutral. In addition, the customer tells where in their body they recognize the disturbance (e.g., “lump in the throat”).
  4. Desensitization: with the customer simultaneously keeping in mind the image of the event, negative cognition and bodily sensations, the identified disorder is desensitized with a series of bilateral stimuli until the disturbance of the image is reduced to zero or ecological level.
  5. Rooting: the customer’s positive cognition is rooted in the memory being processed, keeping in mind the target memory and positive cognition at the same time and providing bilateral stimulus until the customer feels the positive cognition on a scale of 1 to 7 is completely true in relation to the event.
  6. Checking the body: The customer is asked to keep in mind the target memory and positive cognition and to go through their body in their mind to check if there is still tension in the body in the form of bodily sensations. Any remaining bodily sensations are processed through eye movements.
  7. Completion: The therapy session is completed, the customer and the therapist discuss the session (e.g. what was achieved with it), and the customer is advised to identify and process any post-processing.
  8. Reassessment: assessment of treatment outcomes to assess the customer’s overall progress, the changes achieved as a result of re-treatment, and the permanence of treatment outcomes.


(*) Source: Häkkänen-Nyholm, H., Heinimaa, M., & Solomon R. (2020). Silmänliiketerapian käyttö läheisen menetyksestä aiheutuneen komplisoituneen surun hoitoon. Duodecim 136(17):1889-94.

Can I find case examples in the Internet?

How do I find research information?

We recommend this site: https://www.emdr.com/research-overview