Psychotherapy, EMDR

(415) 922 4444

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a revolutionary therapy proven by research to be effective in the treatment and relief of a wide range of disorders. It is a simple, non-invasive patient-therapist collaboration in which healing can happen rapidly and does not involve the use of drugs or hypnosis

The acronym stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. We simply refer to it as EMDR.

What problems are helped by EMDR?

Studies to date show a high degree of effectiveness with the following

  • trauma
  • fears
  • anxiety
  • childhood trauma
  • phobias
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • rape
  • victims of violent crimes
  • post traumatic stress
  • depression
  • overwhelming fears
  • panic attacks
  • low self-esteem
  • performance and test anxiety

The EMDR technique is most effective when used in conjunction with other traditional methods of therapy. EMDR therapy can help clients replace their anxiety and fear with positive images, emotions and thoughts.

What is the procedure?

The core of the procedure involves the client focusing on a pre-selected specific image or remembered sensations while the therapist guides the client’s eye movements to move back and forth. Each set of eye movements may be several seconds long to several minutes. After each set of eye movements, the client is instructed to just notice whatever changes occur in the mind and body without controlling the experience in any way. The therapist considers this information in the light of his or her training and then instructs the client to focus on a new modified image and once again performs a set of eye movements. Eye movements are not the only option available. Certain tactile and auditory stimuli have also been demonstrated to be effective

What Happens during the procedure?

When disturbing experiences happen, they are stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings that accompany them. When a person is very upset, the brain seems to be unable to process the experience as it would normally. Therefore, the negative thoughts and feelings of the traumatic event get “trapped” in the nervous system. Since the brain cannot process these emotions, the experience and/or their accompanying feelings, are often suppressed from consciousness. However, the distress lives on in the nervous system where it causes disturbances in the normal emotional functioning of the person.

The EMDR technique does two very important things. First, it “unlocks” the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and second, it helps the brain successfully process the experience.

The therapist works gently with the client, guiding him or her to revisit the traumatic incident. As images and feelings arise, the client’s eye movements are “matched” with the remembered events and then re-directed into particular movements that cause the release of the memories.

When the memory is brought to mind, the feelings are re-experienced in a new way. EMDR makes it possible to gain the self-knowledge and perspective that will enable the client to choose their actions, rather than feeling powerless over their re-actions.

How does it work?

Well…we don’t know. Several theories by those promoting EMDR have been advanced to explain why and how such a seemingly simple method can have such dramatic and rapid results. EMDR might act as a form of accelerated information processing that unblocks the brain’s information processing system. EMDR may tap into the same mechanisms used in learning and memory now identified with REM sleep. Another possibility is that blocked processing is manifested as phase discrepancies between equivalent areas in the brain’s hemispheres and that the EMDR rhythmic intervention results in improved hemispheric communication with the result that the blocked material is finally processed.

What are the advantages of EMDR therapy?

Research studies show that EMDR is very effective in helping people process emotionally painful and traumatic experiences. When used in conjunction with other therapy modalities, EMDR helps move the client quickly from emotional distress to peaceful resolution of the issues or events involved.

Traditional therapies often focus on memories from the unconscious mind, and then analyzing their meaning to gain insight into the problem. EMDR clients also acquire valuable insights during therapy, but EMDR can short-cut the process and go right to the releasing stage.

Studies consistently show that treatments with EMDR result in elimination of the targeted emotion or memory. The memory remains, but the negative response is neutralized.

Is there research that supports these claims?

Fourteen controlled studies of EMDR make it the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of trauma! A recent study of individuals who experienced rape, military combat, loss of loved ones, disasters and serious accidents, found that 84-90% had relief of their emotional distress after only three EMDR sessions. Another study showed that EMDR was twice as effective in half the amount of time of standard traditional psychotherapeutic care. Another study of subjects with post traumatic stress revealed that the significant improvement they gained with the EMDR treatments were maintained for at least 15 months.

Although some people have dramatic responses in a short period of time, others will progress more slowly. However, the results will be equally effective and long-lasting. Since the initial medical study in 1989, world-wide research has helped develop and evolve EMDR. To date, more than half a million people have benefited from EMDR therapy.

What it is not?

EMDR is not hypnosis. You will not go into a trance or lose conscious control. Although EMDR is a simple procedure, it cannot be casually applied. Due to its powerful nature, it is essential for EMDR to be administered by a licensed mental health practitioner in the context of psychological treatment. EMDR is not a magic pill.

Like hypnosis, EMDR seems to work with the unconscious mind, bringing into consciousness the repressed thoughts and feelings that must be experienced again in order to release their energetic hold on the person.

What type of training does a therapist need to use EMDR?

Only practicing, licensed psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors may receive EMDR training. These are the only mental health professionals qualified to use EMDR therapy with clients. A clinical background is necessary for proper application of the EMDR technique. This is a highly specialized method that requires supervised training for therapeutic effectiveness and client safety.

I am a skilled, experienced Level 2 EMDR clinician. If you have any unanswered questions or would like to set up an initial consultation, please call me,

I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist . Originally from England, I received my BA degree in Psychology at Stanford University and my MA degree from New College in San Francisco. I have worked in the fields of individual, couple, family and group counseling, crisis prevention, child advocacy and shyness research since 1993.

Office address:

1996 Union Street, San Francisco , CA 94123

Also at 130 Greenfield Ave, San Anselmo, CA 94960. Marin County

Tel: (415) 922 4444