EMDR Therapy: An Overview of Theory, Uses, and Neurobiology

Course materials are available as audio with transcripts.

Since its introduction, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) has been presented as an effective, accessible for of therapy to help people recover from distressing and traumatic events. While early studies provided support for its efficacy, numerous questions remained unanswered.

Prepared by an internationally recognized expert in the field of EMDR, this intermediate level course consists of 6 articles (with audio versions) and is designed to provide clinicians an introduction and overview of the main concepts, theory, evidence base, and efficiency of EMDR therapy as an empirically supported treatment.

This course highlights research on the range of conditions for which EMDR therapy has been shown to be an effective form of treatment. In addition, this course provides a clear summary of the Adaptive Information Processing Model which is used in EMDR therapy’s approach to predict its treatment effects. Although controversy has surrounded the role of alternating, bilateral eye movements central to EMDR therapy, emerging evidence for one of the major neurobiological mechanisms that underlie its efficacy is provided.


  • Theory of EMDR
    • The Adaptive Information Processing model
    • Main hypotheses: intrinsic, physical storage, self-healing paradigm
    • Role of adaptive and maladaptive memory networks in health and pathology
    • AIP theory guides history taking, application, predicts treatment effects
  • The Eight Phase approach to EMDR therapy
    • History taking
    • Preparation
    • Target assessment/activation
    • Reprocessing
      • Desensitization
      • Installation
      • Body Scan
    • Closure
    • Re-Evaluation
  • The three-pronged standard protocol for PTSD
    • Past etiological experiences
    • Present triggers
    • Future goals and concerns
  • The role of dual attention and alternating bilateral stimulation
  • Differences in prolonged exposure/extinction and reprocessing/reconsolidation
  • Comparative efficiency and efficacy of prolonged exposure and EMDR therapy.
  • Research on neurological mechanisms of action
  • An evidence-based approach
    • Summary of randomized studies and status of EMDR therapy for PTSD and co-morbid conditions

Educational Objectives

  • List three primary hypotheses of the Adaptive Information Processing model.
  • Recognize and name the eight phases of EMDR therapy.
  • Identify the speed of bilateral stimulation used in EMDR therapy when reprocessing maladaptively encoded (pathogenic) memories.
  • Describe the relative efficacy and efficiency of EMDR therapy in comparison with prolonged exposure.