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Talk therapy typically employs the strategies of meeting clients where they are at, building on their strengths, and problem-solving. In psychoanalytic therapy, therapists guide their clients to uncover unconscious material and analyze and make sense of childhood experiences. In cognitive behavioral therapy, your therapist examines cognitive processes and how they affect your behavior.


Clients are taught to identify, challenge, and counter maladaptive thinking to reduce problematic behaviors. In more postmodern approaches, like solution-focused brief therapy, therapists focus on working with clients' strengths and applying this to help resolve their problems in the shortest amount of time possible.

So, what makes EMDR different from traditional talk therapy?


Well, EMDR can actually employ the strategies of traditional talk therapies as we prepare our clients for desensitizing past traumas. However, “EMDR is a distinct form of therapy and has principles and practices that are different from these and other approaches” (Shapiro & Silk Forest, 2016 p.4). Standard EMDR is an eight-phase treatment consisting of a three-pronged protocol addressing:

By focusing on where stress gets held in the body, as well as on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, EMDR allows the whole nervous system to repair itself. Clients report experiencing increased safety and peace. People often feel less “triggered” by reminders of the past, and more excited about the future. Originally created in 1987, EMDR is an evidence-based treatment with long-standing research backing.


In addition to trauma and PTSD, it has also been shown to be effective for: 

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias   

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Chronic Illness and medical issues

  • Depression and bipolar disorders

  • Grief and loss

  • Physical pain

  • Reducing performance anxiety or fear of public speaking 

  • Sleep issues 

  • Substance abuse and addiction

One important difference between EMDR and traditional talk therapy is that during EMDR a client does not have to talk about the negative event or trauma to get resolution. They need only hold the image in their mind while the therapist guides them with DAS. EMDR provides a way to help clients revisit their trauma without being retraumatized and reduces the risk of flooding. In many cases, EMDR can result in symptoms being resolved in a shorter amount of time. EMDR is not limited to trauma as it's also commonly used for depression, anxiety, substance use cravings, stressors and phobias. 


Short term EMDR with Adolescents

Young people process trauma and stress through a different lens than adults; their brains are a work in progress, and often they lack the vocabulary and cognitive tools to deal with deep-seated emotions. EMDR removes the barriers of verbal communication, making it an especially apt choice for those who might find it difficult to verbalize their internal experiences.



Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures (3rd ed.) New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Shapiro, F. & Silk Forest, M. (2016). EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety,  Stress, and Trauma (Updated ed.) New York, NY: Basic Books.

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