EMDR — a power therapy

EMDR, like the other quick therapies, works by targeting the lower and more primal parts of the mind.

by Jef Gazley — 

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the middle 1980s. EMDR is one of the newer “power” therapies that has recently been acknowledged and accepted by the professional counseling community and the general public. They are known as power therapies because they work much more quickly than traditional talk therapy or psychotherapy.

EMDR, like the other quick therapies, works by targeting the lower and more primal parts of the mind. Talk therapy, in contrast, focuses mainly on the prefrontal cortex and relies on insight to effect change. EMDR works primarily through the subconscious, although insight often results.

It is theorized that EMDR also activates and quickly changes the mind/body continuum and, therefore, can be appropriately categorized as an energy psychology as well. Energy psychology is based on Chinese medicine and more particularly on the acupuncture/acupressure system. This system is based on the premise that chi (electricity or energy) travels through the meridians or rivers of acupuncture points in the body. This bodily energy can become unbalanced by physical, emotional or traumatic factors. Energy psychology postulates that balancing this energetic system can quickly relieve problems resulting from all three causes.

EMDR works on many problems, but is especially effective with traumas, both past and present. The therapist quickly moves her hand back and forth, while asking the client to move only his eyes as they track the hand’s movement. The client is directed to recall the trauma during the procedure.

After 20 to 25 hand movements, the client is asked to focus on whatever issue, feeling, thought or aspect of the trauma is now most prominent. The procedure is then repeated for this new target. The problem is often painlessly resolved after only a few sessions, compared to traditional therapy which often lasts for months or years.

This movement of the eyes mimics the REM or rapid eye movements that occur when a person is dreaming. It is theorized that we shift short-term memory into long-term memory via the REM process. The emotional component in long-term memory becomes significantly reduced and is remembered as if from a great distance. Any trauma can become stuck, especially if it is painful and severe. This type of therapy can quickly and effectively remove this impediment and reprocess the information, thus relieving the problem.


Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC, is licensed in general, marriage, family and substance abuse counseling in Arizona, and is a certified hypnotherapist and a trained counselor in EMDR, NET™, TFT and applied kinesiology in Scottsdale, Ariz. 866-998-0560, and

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 4, August/September 2006.

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