EMDR with woman

Have questions about EMDR?

You’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re considering EMDR for yourself or explaining it to someone else, EMDR Canada has the answers…

What is EMDR >

Research + Evidence >

Is EMDR For Me >


What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that helps individuals with concerns, whether they stem from the past, present or future, feel better now. It is a collaborative process that does not require an individual to share their entire story or to share details of the traumatic event/s. It is effective across cultures, and ethnicities, from children to adults and seniors.


It’s weird, but it works.  Here’s how:

EMDR works by having an individual focus on the upsetting situation with the clinician simultaneously using back-and-forth (bilateral) motion, typically with the eyes, for the individual to follow. Eye movements have been shown to reduce the vividness, arousal and emotional intensity of traumatic events (Barrowcliff, et al., 2004). Each EMDR clinician is trained extensively in the 8-phase EMDR protocol to be able to safely and effectively deliver bilateral stimulation.

Some EMDR Clinicians use these analogies to explain the therapy to their clients:

“The process of EMDR is like riding a train. We start with a whole bunch of baggage, and there are several stops along the way where we let passengers and baggage off, bits at a time (which can be emotional, physical, bodily sensations, thoughts, memories, etc.) until we get to our final destination with a lot less load than when we started.”

“Imagine our brain as a filing cabinet. When we go through different things in our lives, our brain has the ability to “sort” those events into the categories that they belong to. For example, when seeing a dog on a walk, our brain “files” that information, so quickly and often without our awareness, into the file for dogs. Sometimes, because of the events we go through, we are so overwhelmed by the situation that this impairs our brain’s ability to sort the files properly. Files may be disorganized leaving our lives feeling in chaos. EMDR helps our brain to re-start the process of sorting all the overwhelming files in appropriate and neat categories.”

Check out the videos below for more information:

Research and Evidence

EMDR is a highly researched, peer-reviewed treatment modality, with even more research arising every year. EMDR has been proven to be effective in helping those heal from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depressive disorders, dissociative disorders, Personality Disorders and trauma disorders. The World Health Organization (WHO), American Psychological Association, Veteran Affairs Canada, US Department of Veterans Affairs, and International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies among other reputable international and national organizations recognize that EMDR therapy is an effective treatment. 

Here are a few of the many studies on EMDR effectiveness:

2016 Study of Syrian refugees by Acaturk et al

In a 2016 study of Syrian refugees by Acaturk et al., participants with PTSD experienced a significant reduction of PTSD and depression symptoms after treatment as well at the 5-week follow-up. At the time of follow-up, 49% of participants were no longer diagnosed with PTSD.

2013 Study by Capezzani et al

A 2013 study by Capezzani et al., found that, after 8 sessions of treatment, EMDR was more beneficial than a number of CBT techniques. Additionally, “almost all the patients (20 out of 21, 95.2%) did not have PTSD after the EMDR treatment.”

1999 Study on the effectiveness of EMDR

In a 1999 study on the effectiveness of EMDR with adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse, those in the EMDR treatment groups compared to the routine treatment condition experienced fewer clinical symptoms at the 3-month follow-up and the 18-month follow-up.


Acarturk, C., Konuk, E., Cetinkaya, M., Senay, I., Sijbrandij, M., Gulen, B., & Cuijpers, P. (2016). The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among Syrian refugees: results of a randomized controlled trial. Psychological medicine, 46(12), 2583-2593.

Barrowcliff, A.L., Gray, N.S., Freeman, T.C.A., & MacCulloch, M.J. (2004). Eye- movements reduce the vividness, emotional valence and electrodermal arousal associated with negative autobiographical memories. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 15, 325-345.

Capezzani et al. (2013). EMDR and CBT for cancer patients: Comparative study of effects on PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 5, 2-13.

Edmond, T., Rubin, A., & Wambach, K. (1999). The effectiveness of EMDR with adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Social Work Research, 23, 103- 116.

Maxfield, L. (2019). A clinician’s guide to the efficacy of EMDR therapy. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research [Editorial], 13(4), 239-246. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1933-3196.13.4.239

Interested in EMDR?

Is EMDR for me?

EMDR has been successfully used to treat several groups that are often underserved or experience difficulties with CBT and other therapies, including children, military service members, refugees, Indigenous clients, and beyond.

EMDR is effective for people of all ages.

It has been proven to work with children as young as two, as well as with elderly people.

grandparents with child
Ethnic group of peole

EMDR works across languages and cultures.

Many studies on EMDR effectiveness involve immigrants and refugees who do not speak the same language as their therapist. It has also been effective in treating Indigenous peoples with various cultural backgrounds and experiences. The simple, physically focused aspects of this therapy make it highly accessible compared to talk-based therapies.

EMDR is ideal for those who do not wish to discuss the source of their trauma.

There is no need to share the cause of one’s trauma in EMDR, making it an ideal option for those protecting classified information (for example, military personnel) or those who simply do not want to repeat their story.

EMDR works for those with co-existing mental health conditions.

Although it is primarily a treatment for PTSD, anxiety symptoms can also be lessened through EMDR. In addition, people with chronic illness, bipolar disorder, disassociative disorder, eating disorders, grief and loss, and many other disorders have also been successfully treated with EMDR.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many sessions does EMDR usually take?

EMDR Typically is delivered over 6-12 sessions. However, this can vary greatly depending on the severity of the issue/s at hand. Working directly with your treatment provider to determine an estimated length of sessions is recommended.

Can I access EMDR therapy virtually, or do I need to see a therapist in person?

Multiple studies have found virtual EMDR to be as efficacious as in-person EMDR therapy. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, EMDR online and virtual psychotherapy was in its infancy. As the pandemic ensued, an increasing demand for virtual therapy and virtual EMDR therapy was needed. Today, EMDR continues to be utilized effectively and safely virtually.

Here are some studies on the efficacy of virtual EMDR:


Dyer, A. S., de Young, K. P., & Porges, S. W. (2021). Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Delivered via Telehealth in Adults with PTSD: A Systematic Review. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 15(3), 146-158.

McGowan, I. W., Fisher, N., Havens, J., & Proudlock, S. (2021). An evaluation of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy delivered remotely during the Covid–19 pandemic. BMC psychiatry, 21(1), 1-8.

Sbarra, D. A., & Wheaton, M. G. (2020). No Place Like Home: EMDR for PTSD via Telehealth. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 14(3), 181-193.

Is there a way to report an EMDR therapist for misconduct?

If you believe your clinician has practiced EMDR unethically, please contact that clinician’s local licensing board. For example, unethical behaviour in the use of EMDR for a Psychologist practicing psychology in Alberta would need to be reported to the College of Alberta Psychologists’.

We can help you find an EMDR Therapist that meets your specific needs!