PTSD: EMDR Therapy Brings Hope

Approaching PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a syndrome, a hodge-podge of symptoms, listed below.  They can be so intense, a person feels crazy. Or they can settle into a “normal” that is really anything but.  Since people get so used to it, it seems normal for them.

Their family and friends see the signs and also think, “That’s just him,” or “That’s just her,” wishing something could be done.  Sometimes they know what stresses prompted this personality, and other times, the stresses are secret, deeply filed away in a sensitive storage place deep in the brain, heart, gut, and/or body.  Sometimes the sufferer himself doesn’t realize how deep the wound was that caused this limited way of life called PTSD.

Standard Symptoms:



Sleeping problems

Common Optional Symptoms:

Feeling isolated from others

Spacing out (going away in your mind)


Temper problems

Anxiety attacks


Feeling like you are not always in your body

Desire to hurt yourself or others physically

Feelings of guilt or inferiority

Some type of substance or behavioral addiction to distract oneself from the symptoms

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a comprehensive psychotherapy approach that has been researched since 1989.  As of 2014, over 35 randomized control studies (the highest standard for quality research) have been conducted showing EMDR to be effective at eliminating PTSD symptoms for 80-90% of the patients for a single event trauma in one to three 90-minute sessions., EMDR also has high success rates for other conditions caused by stressful experiences, such as depression and anxiety disorders.  By 2014, over 400 total studies have revealed that EMDR can help with a variety of issues (see the other topics in this section of the website).  In 2013 the World Health Organization recommended just 2 treatments for PTSD:  EMDR and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  This recommendation is due to the wealth of quality research validating EMDR.

When the PTSD symptoms are gone, people say things like, “I’ve gotten myself back!”  Friends and relatives can see the change.  Thus, EMDR is not like the talk therapy of old that takes months or years to work and change is very hard to see.  One victim of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and a drowning attempt (by a relative who is now on death row for murdering two people) said to his EMDR therapist:  “I’ve progressed more with you in three months than I have in 20 years of talk therapy.”

EMDR is dramatically fast when one has had one terrible event.  Thus, we encourage all to share the hope about EMDR with any dear one who has had the standard things believed to cause PTSD, such as experiencing a life-threatening event, or witnessing one, or having a loved one experience such an event, or the death of a loved one.

But in addition to this, research reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2006 demonstrated that people can have even higher PTSD scores from non-life-threatening events, such as a having a bad breakup or divorce, experiencing bullying at school or work, or being a victim of cruel gossip or ostracism. 

So EMDR therapists have found the definition of PTSD is far broader than was traditionally believed.  I’ve personally seen many clients with high PTSD scores who have not experienced a life-threatening event.  The British research was no surprise to us, but we were glad to see scientific confirmation of what we had frequently observed.  Even insurance companies are listening to that research, and allowing EMDR treatment when they may not have in the past.  By the way, all major insurance plans will approve EMDR therapy for the treatment of PTSD.

What about the people for whom EMDR did not seem to work in the above research reports? We find they are the ones who were harmed by verbal (research called the “ACES Study” shows this is the most damaging form of abuse) or physical or sexual abuse early in their lives.  Or, they may have been neglected in a physical sense, or in an emotional sense.  They may have been raised by a parent with addiction, mental illness, divorce or incarceration which impeded their ability to parent well, or to parent at all.  Adding together all those categories of stress gives an “Adverse Childhood Experiences” or ACES Score.  The higher the score, the greater the number of chronic health problems.  So healing those stressful experiences is a very important priority. It just takes more time and care for these more vulnerable clients to gain the benefits of EMDR.   EMDR therapists have found many people reporting their chronic health conditions easing the more their stresses and traumas get “processed” with EMDR therapy.

We call their experience “Complex PTSD.”  It is an actual diagnosis internationally, but, as yet, the American Psychiatric Association is not listing “Complex PTSD” as a diagnosis..

For these patients, their stress occurred at such young ages, their thinking system was not yet developed.  They didn’t have the ability to reason clearly.  They usually thought the negative happenings were their fault.  It became hard to trust themselves or others. These issues require that therapy be a gentler, slower process.  Many EMDR approaches have been developed to help early trauma quite beautifully.  Thus, these people can heal and benefit from EMDR at a slower pace than others who have not had such experiences.  One client experiencing this Early Trauma EMDR therapy said, “I’ve never known how to feel safe in my life.  But now that I do, I have energy.  My fatigue is gone!”

There are some people who made it through a very difficult childhood and seemed to be resilient, doing OK.  But in adulthood they had war combat, or a natural disaster, or other terrible traumas to cope with.  They may do well enough until that last straw hits.  One more trauma, that may not be bad compared to the rest.

For them, the system has finally been overwhelmed.  That is Acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  They feel incapacitated and sometimes can’t remember simple things, like what day it is, to brush one’s teeth and to take a shower.  EMDR can help with this, too, through a Recent Traumatic Event Protocol.  Sometimes some of those earlier traumas would wisely be addressed, too, so the patient isn’t as vulnerable  to this happening again – so they regain their strength.

We recommend getting EMDR help quickly when there is a trauma, keeping yourself at your own best.  Your brain and body are designed to heal almost equally quickly if given quick and effective care.  Please give your brain that opportunity to heal quickly.

This website lists the dedicated EMDR therapists who have become EMDRIA-Certified.  Ours is the only EMDR website that lists only EMDRIA-Certified EMDR therapists.  All of our therapists are experienced and capable in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  We encourage you to search for the one that you connect with well. 

If you live in an area we do not yet serve, please go to,


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We wish you very well in your healing experience.