Sometimes a person’s mental processes get blocked by a painful memory. EMDR clinicians work to help clients engage their own healing processes.  A core element of EMDR treatment is bilateral stimulation.  Bilateral stimulation is rhythmic stimuli that alternates between the left & right sides of the body.

Bilateral Stimulation in EMDR was first done with eye movements. This involved a client tracking a clinicians hand with their eyes while it moved back and forth. However, there are now a variety of modalities that can be used. Some of these include holding buzzers which alternately vibrate from left to right, or listening to tones that alternate from the left to right ear.  While the client is engaging in bilateral stimulation, the clinician asks the client to hold different parts of the chosen event or thought in their mind. Connections come up and the troubling feelings and the memory start to process.

A Harvard Researcher believed that this process may be associated with the biological mechanisms connected to REM sleep. When EMDR is successful, the significance of an event is changed. For example one shift could be from thinking “I’m a bad person” to “I did the best I could.”

Caterpillar EMDR “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over it became a butterfly.”-proverb Butterfly EMDR


Some studies show that after three 90 minute sessions of EMDR 84% – 90% of single trauma victims no longer have PTSD. Another study showed that after six 50 minute sessions 100% of single trauma victims and 70% of multiple trauma victims no longer had PTSD. In another study of EMDR with combat veterans, after 12 sessions, 77% no longer had PTSD.  EMDR is recognized by American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, and the Department of Defense as an effective treatment for trauma. More than 70 thousand clinicians around the world use EMDR.