What is EMDR Therapy and how Does it Work?

What is EMDR Therapy and how Does it Work

According to Stats Canada, in 2022, over five million Canadians, aged 15 and over, suffered from some form of mental health issue including anxiety, mood, and substance disorder with this number expected to grow in coming years. 


As mental health is now one of the leading causes of disability in Canada, combating mental health has become one of the prime directives of the Canadian government – as healthy minds are the key to a healthy and thriving economy!


While there are many types of mental disorders and therapies, in this article, we will look at eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). 


This form of mental health therapy is a fairly new one and has already proven to help treat patients with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and more with many clinical trials proving its effectiveness and merit.


What is EMDR Therapy? How does it work?

EMDR therapy is a mental health treatment technique that involves moving one’s eyes in a specific way as one processes and recalls traumatic experiences. 


The goal of this therapy is to naturally heal you from traumatic memories that are impacting your mental health using an 8-phase treatment method that is held over several sessions. 


Unlike other therapies that focus on altering emotions, EMDR works by changing where memories are stored within our brains. 


This may be difficult to grasp right now but keep reading and I assure you it will all make sense!


Overview of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy relies on the theory of Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), a model developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD. 


AIP is a theory based on how our brain stores memories. According to the theory, our brain stores normal and traumatic memories differently. 


Normal memories can be stored easily by the brain and connected to the network of existing memories. However, during traumatic and upsetting events our brain disconnects from the rest of the network in an attempt to suppress the memory to reduce shock or pain. 

This disrupts the link between memories and senses making the experience feel much different than the memory itself. 


Certain sights, sounds, and smells can now trigger this suppressed traumatic memory, which is often what happens in cases of PTSD. The flashbacks experienced by PTSD patients are caused due to improper storage and a network disconnect causing overwhelming feelings of anxiety, panic, anger, and fear. 


Based on this theory, Francine Shapiro founded and developed EMDR therapy to help properly store traumatic memories in our brain so they can heal naturally and can be correctly networked using an 8-phase treatment process. 



The 8-Phase Treatment Process of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy is carried out in eight phases spanning several sessions, each lasting about 60-90 minutes. 


Depending on the complexity and severity of the traumatic experience, the 8-phase treatment process can span from 3-6 sessions, for a single traumatic memory, or 8-12 sessions, or more, for complex longer-term traumas.


Here is the breakdown of the 8-phase process:


1- Gathering patient history and information

The process begins with the healthcare provider gathering information about your medical history, personal life, and your past. It involves asking questions about traumatic events to help the practitioner figure out where to focus therapy.


2- Preparation and education

Your healthcare provider will then inform you of how the EMDR therapy session works, what to expect, and how to stay safe and stable during sessions.


3- Assessment

This is the phase when therapy truly starts. Your healthcare provider will start to dig deeper into specific memories that are causing trauma and help you identify both positive and negative beliefs arising from those memories.


4- Desensitization and reprocessing

Memories are activated during this phase by identifying specific feelings, thoughts, images, and body sensations. Your care provider will note down how you react and your insights on what you are experiencing.


5- Installation

This is the phase where a positive belief about a traumatic memory is imprinted upon it as it is processed.


6 – Body scan

During this phase, your healthcare provider will note down how your body reacts to the trauma being focused upon. After multiple sessions, if they see your symptoms of PTSD have decreased or are not being triggered, this is a sign that your reprocessing is complete.


7- Closure and stabilization

During this phase, your healthcare provider will share ways or techniques to help you stabilize your emotions if you have negative flashbacks or feelings in between sessions. 


8- Reevaluation and continuing care

This is the final phase of the process. Your practitioner will now go over your progress and determine if you need more sessions or if you have achieved the goals you had set out at the beginning of the process.


The Pros & Cons of EMDR Therapy

Like most forms of therapy, EMDR has its benefits and limitations.



  • Numerous clinical studies have proven EMDR to be an effective form of treatment for mental health issues.
  • The therapy is less stressful as rather than reliving your trauma repeatedly, the focus is to process and move past the trauma as quickly as possible.
  • EMDR therapy offers faster results than other forms of therapy.



  • It is a fairly new method and there are still unknowns.
  • Scientists still can’t figure out exactly why it works, even though there is plenty of evidence that suggests it does.
  • It is most effective for conditions related to PTSD.


EMDR Therapy Services Near You

For more information on EMDR therapy and whether it is right for you contact Spectrum Therapeutic Solutions at (902) 932 2395. 


Based out of Dartmouth, NS, we are a firm that offers a wide range of therapeutic counselling and therapy services, addressing not only mental and emotional health, but also physical wellness.


With over 20+ years of combined experience, your healing process begins with us!





Q) Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?

Individuals who struggle with mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other trauma-related conditions can benefit from EMDR therapy. 


Q) Are there any risks with EMDR therapy?

The therapy is safe, but like all therapies, it can have potentially unforeseen negative effects on certain individuals.


Q) How does EMDR compare to other therapies?

Although still relatively new, EMDR has already proven to offer much faster results than traditional therapies. It also puts less emphasis on verbal recounting of trauma compared to therapies like CBT which can be difficult for many PTSD patients.

About Us

Spectrum Therapeutic Solutions was Founded in 1989 as an occupational health service it grew to include therapeutic counselling in 2005.


Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Contact Us

Feel free to use the contact form below to reach out to us. Our dedicated team is here to assist you with any questions or projects you have in mind.