Ruth Wetherford, Ph.D.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: EMDR

I took the beginning and advanced trainings from Dr. Francine Shapiro, who discovered and developed EMDR, and I became certified by the EMDR Institute in 1992.  I’ve used the method frequently and effectively ever since then.

Basically EMDR involves several steps, including:

  1. identifying specifically what the anxiety-provoking situation or moment is (for example, being asked to speak in front of a group of people);
  2. estimating the level of anxiety that the event triggers in you (for example, a 6 on a scale from 1 to 7);
  3. identifying your “I statements” of beliefs or feelings that are embedded in that anxiety (for example, I am afraid I’ll forget what I wanted to say, or I’ll be embarrassed about being so nervous, etc.);
  4.  identifying the “I statements” you’d like to feel in that situation (for example, “I feel confident that I’ll remember what I want to say” or “I feel secure that I’m going to do a good enough job speaking  in front of others to feel good about myself”, etc.);
  5. sweeping your eyes back and forth laterally from left to right *, following my hand as I sit near you, while focusing at first on your mental image of the anxiety-provoking moment and then releasing your attention to go in any direction without your directing it, following it to any images, thoughts, feelings, memories, events coming up in the future, or bodily sensations that come into your awareness.
  6. After a number of repetitions of the left/right eye movements, we stop, take a deep breath, and you report to me what you just experienced/ remembered/ thought/felt, etc.  during the eye movements. I suggest you continue with one of those images and we do another set of left to right movements of your eyes. I know it may seem strange at first, but it can be truly amazing.
  7. We end the EMDR with images of safety and self-affirmation, and with a few minutes left before the end of the session.

* We will adopt your preferences, such as for number and speed of repetitions, use of hand-tapping instead of eye movement, etc.

Of course there is much research and discussion going on now about how and why EMDR is effective.  If you were to Google “EMDR” right now, you would find over four million sites.  Here are two of the most helpful ones I recommend:

EMDR Institute
EMDR International Association