A look
into how
EMDR therapy works


EMDR Therapy: How It Works & Who It’s Right For?

The brain has its own recovery system, that is the information-processing system.
It naturally helps us processing and overcoming adversities and stressful life experiences.
Like the body has its way of recovering, on a cellular level, the brain can process and repair a psychological wound.
However, this system can become blocked or imbalanced by the impact of distressing or traumatic experiences.
These events become unprocessed memories.
EMDR therapy works by stimulating the nervous system with bilateral stimulation, which is one of the key components of the treatment.
EMDR Bilateral stimulation allows the natural healing process to take place by rapidly and completely processing the distressing memories.

  • Evidence based

EMDR has been recognized as one of the most effective treatments for trauma- related issues by several International Guidelines for Clinical Practice and Excellence.
You can find hundreds of research articles to read about EMDR effectiveness for many different clinical conditions.

  • Way faster than any other psychotherapy

Given its neurobiological foundations, and its high efficacy, EMDR Therapy is a rapid therapeutic approach compared to other psychotherapies.

  • Customized to the patient’s needs

EMDR therapy follows a standardized protocol, to guarantee that the therapist applies only proven-effective methods.
However, every individual history is unique.
We will find out together the key experiences that explain your complaint and reprocess them.

  • Different forms of bilateral stimulation

We can adapt the bilateral stimulation (BS) used to work on unresolved memories.
There are different forms of BS: eye movements, tactile or auditory stimulation.

How EMDR Therapy
resolves trauma

Today the definition of trauma has very much broadened.
Traumatic experiences can either be big events, like natural disasters, car accidents and violent assaults, or minor stressful events that undermine other central aspects of our personality.

EMDR: the safest and fastest way to overcome traumatic or distressing experiences

Minor adversities can be cumulative and characterize one’s childhood/adolescence.
Examples are: having being bullied, suffering the loss of a loved one, having suffered humilliation, bad experiences within the family, with teachers or friends, etc..


Here you can find the answer to the most common questions about EMDR therapy, its mechanism of action, and its effectiveness.
If you don’t find the answer you were searching for, please contact me.
I would be pleased to help.

What is the theoretical model of EMDR Therapy?

The theory explaining EMDR Therapy is the A.I.P.  (Adaptive Information Processing) Model, formulated by Dr. Francine Shapiro soon after developing the treatment and publishing the first studies on EMDR therapy effectiveness.

The AIP model explains the basis of pathology through neuroscience.

We possess the innate ability to process traumatic and adverse events and learn something positive from them.
Every night, during  REM sleep, our brain performs a process called reconsolidation.
Reconsolidation makes it possible for the information we recorded and stored during the day in the short term memory to be filtered and packed into long term memory. This is the way our brain processes adverse or traumatic experiences, filters useful information and place it where we need it to use to thrive in relationships, work, self-esteem etc…
This is called the brain’s processing system.

When an experience is inadequately processed, it remains stored in a “raw” state, frozen in its own neural network and unable to connect with adaptive (positive) information.
Traumatic or adverse experiences can imbalance the brain’s processing system and result in unprocessed (raw) memories. These memories cause the person to relive all the negative feelings, sensations and cognitions associated with a trauma.
This is why we get stuck in disfunctional responses and experience symptoms such as anxiety, alert, depression, compulsions, etc…

Through bilateral stimulation, EMDR therapy  stimulates reconsolidation, creates new neural pathways, helping the brain to process the traumatic or distressful memory, effectively dissipating symptoms and/or disfunctional behaviours.

What does it mean that a psychotherapy method is "Evidence-based?"

In the medical field, several known organizations and/or entities work specifically to establish which are the most effective and safest treatments for specific health and psychiatric conditions.
This process require a method (or a drug) to meet very strict criteria and to have proven its efficacy in different studies, with large population samples, using valuable research methodology.

Most international guidelines for clinical practice include EMDR therapy as an evidence-based treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and other trauma-realted complaints.

Among them:

American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, World Health Organization, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services America, Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health.

EMDR is also found effective by the United Kingdom Department of Health, Dutch National Steering Committee for Health Care, Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies.

Is Online EMDR as effective as in person?

The answer to this question is yes, it really is!
Many therapists have chosen to work online, because is a real opportunity for clients to connect with a licensed professional and receive treatment out of  endless waiting lists, without getting stuck in traffic and also saving money from traveling to the therapist’s office.
Online EMDR Therapy gives access to a solid treatment with a professional of choice.
Online EMDR therapy works exactly as in person:

  • The first few sessions (2 to 3) will be dedicated to history taking and exploring the issue;
  • The therapist and the client will agree on the three-pronged treatment plan (past-present-future);
  • The unresolved memories causing the problem will then be targeted and fully processed with EMDR protocol;
  • Present triggers and future templates will be part of the final part of therapy to consolidate the results and guarantee long lasting effects.
What if I can't recall any traumatic experience from my past?

We don’t have to understand trauma just by the idea of  “capital T” events: war zone experiences, witnessing a shooting, being victim of an assault, suffering from sexual or physical abuse, for example.
Today the definition of trauma has changed, thanks to many scientists from different disciplines connected to psychology. We know that even minor experiences can have a great impact on one’s personality, in other words on the way one perceives him/herself, manages relationships, and acts in the world.
Having being bullied, growing up in an unstable environment, suffering humilliations at school or within the family, these are all traumatic/distressing events.
These are “little t traumas”, even though their effects can be major.

If they remain unprocessed, this results in the person feeling pushed in the wrong direction, limiting his/her chances of being happy.
These unprocessed memories represent the cause of a large variety of symptoms and psychpatologies:
anxiety, social phobia, sexual function difficulties, OCD, personality disorders, etc…

Dr. Piera Briganti

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