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Ron Huxley is a certified practitioner of EMDR therapy for children and adults. If you are looking for an EMDR therapist, you can schedule a session now: Click here!

For more information, contact Ron at (805) 709-2023 or by email at

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a one-on-one form of psychotherapy that is designed to reduce trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to improve overall mental health functioning.

Treatment is provided by an EMDR therapist, who first reviews the client’s history and assesses the client’s readiness for EMDR. During the preparation phase, the therapist works with the client to identify a positive memory associated with feelings of safety or calm that can be used if psychological distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered. This is called the “Safe Place” and will be a baseline for the rest of the trauma work. The target traumatic memory for the treatment session is accessed with attention to image, negative belief, and body sensations.


Repetitive 30-second dual-attention exercises are conducted in which the client attends to a motor task while focusing on the target traumatic memory and then on any related negative thoughts, associations, and body sensations. The most common motor task used in EMDR is side-to-side eye movements that follow the therapist’s finger; however, alternating hand tapping or auditory tones delivered through headphones can be used. The exercises are repeated until the client reports no emotional distress.

The EMDR therapist then asks the client to think of a preferred positive belief regarding the incident and to focus on this positive belief while continuing with the exercises. The exercises end when the client reports with confidence comfortable feelings and a positive sense of self when recalling the target trauma. The therapist and client review the client’s progress and discuss scenarios or contexts that might trigger psychological distress. These triggers and positive images for appropriate future action are also targeted and processed.

In addition, the therapist asks the client to keep a journal, noting any material related to the traumatic memory, and to focus on the previously identified positive safe or calm memory whenever psychological distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered.


How Does Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Work?

The underlying mechanism for how this process works to reduce trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression is unknown. Researchers have theorized that the positive effect is due to adaptive information processing, the theoretical model behind EMDR. Through adaptive information processing, the dual-attention exercises disrupt the client’s stored memory of the trauma to allow for an elimination of negative beliefs, emotions, and somatic symptoms associated with the memory as it connects with more adaptive information stored in the memory networks. Once recall of the trauma no longer elicits negative beliefs, emotions, or somatic symptoms and the memory simultaneously shifts to a more adaptive set of beliefs, emotions, and somatic responses, it is stored again, overwriting the original memory of the trauma.


One theory of why EMDR works is that it involves similar processes to Rapid Eye Movement (REM). REM is the involuntary movement of the eyes during the “dreaming” stage of sleep. It is believed that REM “prunes” our memories, eliminating unnecessary sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts experienced from the day. The mind doesn’t need to keep all that information stored in the conscious memory. What it doesn’t need, it eliminates. Traumatic events prevent this from occurring because remembering them could be helpful in preventing future dangerous situations. Re-engaging the eye movements while processing past memories, with a trained EMDR therapist could allow this natural healing process happen.

EMDR and Brain Hemispheres

Trauma researchers have discovered that traumatic memories are stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. This half of the brain in cooperation with the front area of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC), is largely responsible for managing images, emotions, and a sense of self. Trauma is “hot” in this area and EMDR “cools” it down so that it can move from the right hemisphere to the left hemisphere. The left side of the brain manages language and logical connections.

Putting this all together: When a “hot” memory is recalled while watching the movement of fingers in a side-to-side motion, simultaneously naming feelings in the body and scenes recalled in the right hemisphere, you will have successfully activated every area of the brain in a coherent way. Consequently, memories can be experienced without negative feelings or thoughts about oneself.


EMDR and Mindfulness

Researchers on the brain and mindfulness have stated that EMDR is “like mindfulness on steroids”. Forebrain activation through the application of EMDR allows for more conscious control over the emotional centers of the brain. EMDR therapists prompt clients to “just notice” what is occurring in their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judging the content similar to the process of meditation.

The benefits of mindfulness shows increased friendliness, gratitude, gentleness, curiosity, non-reactivity, happiness, creativity, persistence, confidence and willingness to engage in life.

How Long Does EMDR Take?

The number of sessions varies with the complexity of the trauma being treated. For an isolated, single traumatic event, one to three sessions may be sufficient for treatment. However, when the trauma involves repeated traumatic events, such as combat trauma and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, many more sessions may be needed for comprehensive treatment. Although all the studies reviewed for this summary involved adults, the intervention was also developed for use with children and adolescents.

Source: SAHMSA Evidence-Based Practice Website

If you feel this type of treatment would be helpful to you or your child, schedule a session now or contact Ron Huxley at 805-709-2023 or email:

Download an EMDR brochure:

Adult EMDR Brochure

Child EMDR Brochure


Andrew Leeds, PhD

American Psychological Association

WebMd Report