EMDR Therapy (Guest Post by Johnzelle Anderson LPC)

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Francine Shapiro is a legend in the mental health community. She made the groundbreaking discovery that launched the EMDR therapy movement in 1987. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. 

Shapiro didn’t set out to create a new therapeutic technique; in fact, she was on the path to becoming a poet until a diagnosis of cancer changed the trajectory of her life. During that time, she began to ponder the nature of human suffering and wanted to find a way to transform suffering so that it wasn’t as debilitating.

“Our clinical work with EMDR therapy shows us that suffering can be transformed— not only into art but into life” (Shapiro, 2018).

So what is EMDR therapy?

EMDR therapy targets early life experiences and traumas. EMDR approaches help people to “metabolize the dysfunctional residue from the past and transform it into something useful” (Shapiro, 2018). In other words, EMDR helps people to reprocess painful experiences in a way that allows them to grow and to get unstuck.

“The purpose of the eight-phase EMDR therapy is to help liberate a client from the past into a healthy and productive present” (Shapiro, 2018).

This is done by helping the client to gain awareness of the negative experiences of the past, reducing the triggers from those negative experiences that are causing current distress, and to find new ways to take the insights gained to excel in the present and future despite the past traumas.

The “eye movement” component of the name is based on the techniques EMDR therapists use; for example, having clients follow a moving object as the traumas are discussed and processed. My therapist does this with tapping instead of eye movement, so there are a number of ways to do EMDR therapy. Side note: My therapist trained with Francine Shapiro when EMDR launched in the 80s! How cool is that!?


EMDR is so effective because it engages both hemispheres of the brain in a process called bilateral dual attention. It’s easier for your brain to get unstuck when you are focusing on the eye movement tasks or tapping as you reprocess the distressing memory. Explaining how it works is complex. I just say it’s magic!

“The World Health Organization and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies has established EMDR therapy as a standard, empirically supported, and effective treatment of psychological trauma” (Shapiro, 2018). EMDR can be used for a variety of mental health conditions including PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, grief, bullying, and so much more!

I am thrilled to begin the intensive EMDR training process this winter and will begin offering EMDR at my therapy practice in early 2020.

Thanks for reading! And thanks, Ashley for inviting me to guest post for Mental Health @ Home!

Author bio

Johnzelle Anderson is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Richmond, Virginia, USA. He is the owner of a private practice for psychotherapy called Panoramic Counseling. To learn more about Johnzelle, go to PanoramicCounseling.com.

Works Cited

Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Publications.

15 thoughts on “EMDR Therapy (Guest Post by Johnzelle Anderson LPC)”

      1. EMDR therapy was something that was mentioned to me when I last had my counselling. The therapist did not do it herself, but explained a short bit about it and that if I felt it was required, it was available. But a different counsellor would see me, who was trained.
        I hadn’t really heard, or understood much about it, until then. Learning more later about it from the WordPress community later, by those who had knowledge of sone kind.

          1. I have only heard positive things about it too, whether via the therapist who brought it up at the time, or via the WordPress community.

            At the time it was suggested to me, I didn’t think EMDR would be needed for me, as at that time, the counselling sessions I benefited from and still do with I learnt from it and the new learning I did for myself after. But after my reaction with my mum, I wonder if its for me. The EMDR was suggested I think because of the trauma with regards more to do with my dad and witnessing the cruelty of my dog, should flashbacks had continued. I don’t think it was suggested for the other stuff. I don’t know for sure. I don’t have flashbacks anymore since then. Touch wood.
            But my reaction with how I have been the day I felt and after since, whether it can be for the understanding of that, that’s what I am not sure of. Although I have learnt a fair bit about EMDR, I am still not sure if it would be right for me now, for my situation.

  1. Ashley, fascinating read. Thanks!

    Johnzelle, that’s so interesting your therapist trained with Francine Shapiro. The fact you plan to also study EMDR and offer it as part of your therapy practice speaks highly of how much you value its effectiveness in treating certain mental illnesses. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  2. I’m just starting EMDR therapy myself (wrote a little about it on my blog), and I’ve started poking around to see what others have to say about it. I kind of feel like, if this really ends up working like it’s supposed to, why isn’t everyone doing it, rather than spending years and years in talk therapy? Having spent years and years in talk therapy, I sometimes wonder if that’s been a good use of time and money–and other times I think it’s saved my life. We’ll see. After a few EMDR sessions, I may be in a better position to decide what we gain from each modality of therapy. At any rate, I am glad people are talking and writing about this promising approach!

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