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Vancouver EMDR Therapy: Your Guide to EMDR

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

What is EMDR?

Vancouver EMDR Therapy

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a psychotherapy approach developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s to help people who have experienced traumatic events or distressing life experiences. EMDR is primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has also been applied to other conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and phobias. This post will address how EMDR works, and the potential benefits of seeking out Vancouver EMDR therapy.

How Does EMDR Treat Treat PTSD?

The core of EMDR therapy involves a structured eight-phase process in which the therapist helps the client process distressing memories and associated thoughts and feelings. The therapist uses bilateral stimulation (bilateral just means “on both sides”), typically in the form of side-to-side eye movements, hand tapping, or auditory cues, to help the client reprocess the traumatic memories. This bilateral stimulation is believed to help the brain process and integrate the distressing memories, reducing their emotional charge and enabling the client to make more adaptive meaning of the experience.

Will EMDR Work for Me?

EMDR therapy has a strong evidence base suggesting that it can reduce the severity of trauma symptoms and other distressing thought patterns, and many people have reported significant improvements in their quality of life after undergoing this treatment.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was initially developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has been used successfully to address various other issues. EMDR may be particularly beneficial for:

  • Trauma Survivors: EMDR is widely used to treat individuals who have experienced various forms of trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, accidents, natural disasters, or combat-related trauma.

  • PTSD: EMDR is an evidence-based treatment for PTSD, and many people with this condition have reported significant reductions in symptoms after undergoing EMDR therapy.

  • Anxiety Disorders: EMDR has been applied to various anxiety disorders, including phobias, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

  • Depression: Some studies suggest that EMDR may be helpful in reducing symptoms of depression, especially when related to past traumatic experiences.

  • Panic Attacks: EMDR has been used to address symptoms associated with panic attacks and panic disorder.

  • Grief and Loss: People experiencing grief and loss, particularly if the grief is complicated by traumatic elements, may find relief through EMDR therapy.

  • Chronic Pain: In some cases, EMDR has been used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for people living with chronic pain, especially when the pain is linked to traumatic experiences.

How Do I Know if EMDR is Right for Me?

EMDR Therapy in Vancouver

It's important to note that while EMDR has been found to be effective for many people, not everyone responds to the therapy in the same way. The suitability of EMDR depends on your specific, individual needs, circumstances, and preferences. Additionally, it's crucial to have a thorough assessment by a qualified mental health professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you! If you’re interested in finding out if EMDR may be appropriate for you, reach out today so we can talk more about it.

Can EMDR be part of Addiction Counselling?

Addiction is very frequently a way of coping with trauma. When we live with painful feelings that our nervous system can’t cope with, it makes sense that many people look to substances as a way to cope, or to access feelings of relaxation or joy that otherwise feel out of reach. EMDR may be included in substance use therapy by addressing the underlying trauma through EMDR may contribute to the overall treatment of addiction. Here's how EMDR may be applied in the context of addiction treatment:

  • Trauma Resolution: Addiction is sometimes considered a coping mechanism for individuals who have experienced trauma. EMDR can help to process and resolve traumatic memories, reducing the emotional charge associated with those experiences. By addressing the root causes of trauma, the need for substance use as a coping mechanism may decrease.

  • Reducing Triggers: EMDR can be used to identify and process triggers that contribute to addictive behaviors. Triggers often stem from past traumas, and by desensitizing the emotional impact of these triggers, EMDR may help individuals respond differently to situations that might otherwise lead to substance use.

  • Enhancing Coping Skills: EMDR aims to promote adaptive processing of memories and emotions. As individuals work through traumatic experiences, they may develop healthier coping skills and strategies for managing stress and emotions, reducing the reliance on substances.

  • Improving Self-Esteem: Addiction can be associated with feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. EMDR may help individuals address and reprocess negative beliefs about themselves, fostering a more positive self-concept and reducing the need to self-medicate through substance use.

What Are the Eight Steps of EMDR?

If you are unfamiliar with EMDR, it’s natural to wonder what to expect from a session, which might look really different that traditional talk therapy. EMDR follows an eight step process, which your therapist will go over with you. Each step plays an important part in the overall treatment. Here are the eight steps of EMDR:

History-Taking and Treatment Planning:

  • The therapist gathers information about the client's history, including their traumatic experiences, current symptoms, and personal strengths. Together, they create a treatment plan, outlining the specific targets (traumatic memories) to be processed.


  • The therapist explains the EMDR process and helps the client develop coping mechanisms for emotional distress. The client learns relaxation techniques to manage any anxiety that may arise during the therapy sessions.


  • Specific target memories are identified for processing. The client chooses a negative belief (cognition) associated with the memory and rates the level of distress connected to it. Additionally, the client identifies a positive belief they would prefer to hold about themselves.


  • During this phase, the client focuses on the targeted memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, often in the form of side-to-side eye movements. This process helps reduce the intensity of painful feelings associated with the memory.


  • The positive belief identified in the assessment phase is strengthened. The client is asked to focus on the positive belief while continuing with bilateral stimulation. This phase aims to replace the negative belief with a positive one.

Body Scan:

  • The client is asked to notice any residual tension or physical sensations related to the traumatic memory. If any tension remains, additional processing may be required.


  • The therapist helps the client return to a state of equilibrium if the session stirred up intense emotions. The client is provided with self-soothing techniques to use between sessions.


  • In subsequent sessions, the therapist and client reassess the progress made and identify any remaining issues that need attention. The EMDR process may be applied to new targets or reprocessed memories if necessary.

EMDR Therapy in Vancouver

It's important to note that the number of sessions required can vary depending on the individual and the nature of the issues being addressed. EMDR should only be conducted by a qualified and trained therapist who adheres to the established protocols for this therapeutic approach. It can be hard to know where to look to find a therapist who will be the right fit and will be able to effectively treat your trauma symptoms. If you are looking for EMDR therapy in Vancouver or online, Jonah Fialkow is trained and certified in EMDR and currently accepting new clients. Like all of our Stillwaters therapists, Jonah is LGBTQ+ and neurodivergent affirming. Jonah specializes in treating trauma, anger management, substance use, and relationship challenges. To learn more you can contact us by email here, or book directly with Jonah on his online calendar.

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