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What is EMDR?

EMDR is an eight-phase treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR therapy helps the mind heal from psychological trauma by restoring the brain’s natural balance of mental health. By focusing on eye movements or sequential tapping while concentrating on a deconstructed part of a traumatic memory, the brain can more easily process the traumatic event to lessen its negative impact on your mental health and therefore aid in healing.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR uses bilateral (side-to-side) visual, auditory or tactile stimulation during a guided and structured therapy process in which a person remembers a disturbing event. This bilateral stimulation may be eye movements while following a light or a hand; or it may be listening to an alternating sound from one ear to the next; or it may be feeling the alternating vibration of a pulser from one hand to the other. Neuro-imaging (i.e. brain CT, MRI, PET scans, etc.) studies provide evidence that bilateral stimulation results in similar brain waves as REM (rapid-eye movement) or dream sleep. Research has shown the importance of REM sleep in the maintenance of good mental health. Now known as Dual Attention Stimuli (DAS), the bilateral stimulation is believed to stimulate an orienting response in the brain which makes for more efficient processing of traumatic material.


EMDR therapy involves attention to three time periods:  the past, present, and future.  Focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events.  Also, it is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions.  With EMDR therapy, these items are addressed using an eight-phase treatment approach.

What is EMDR


What is EMDR
How Does EMDR Work


psychotherapy... helping people to heal efficiently

At Lesley Hartman & Associates Inc., we offer Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as one evidence-based treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and phobias. Some therapists may also use EMDR to treat depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, sexual dysfunction, and stress caused by chronic disease.


Developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1990’s, EMDR is a ground-breaking psychotherapy that has resulted in excellent results across many research studies, helping people to heal efficiently from any symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. (source: EMDR Institute, Inc.) 


If you live in the Halifax, NS area, and are seeking EMDR therapy, contact Lesley Hartman & Associates Inc. for more information. We currently have seven trained EMDR therapists on staff.



Phase 1

The first phase involves symptom and problem assessment, assessment of a client’s strengths and resources, and history-taking.  During this phase, the therapist assesses the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan.  Client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing.  These include distressing memories and current situations that cause emotional distress.  Other targets may include related incidents in the past.  Emphasis is placed on the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations.

Phase 2

During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress.  The therapist may teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques the client can use during and between sessions. A goal of EMDR therapy is to produce rapid and effective change while the client maintains equilibrium during and between sessions.

Phase 3-6

In phases three to six, a target memory is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures.  If there are multiple memories to work through, the client will go through these phases multiple times. Initial EMDR processing may be directed to childhood events rather than to adult onset stressors or the identified critical incident if the client had a problematic childhood.  This is because traumatic memories tend to clump together with earlier memories with similar themes. Addressing the earliest memories in a theme assists with more effective processing of trauma. In the process, clients generally gain insight on their situations, the emotional distress resolves and they start to change their behaviors.  The length of treatment depends upon the number of traumas and the age of PTSD onset.

EMDR procedures involve the client identifying three things:

1.  The vivid visual image related to the memory
2.  A negative belief about self
3.  Related emotions and body sensations.

In addition, the client identifies a positive belief.  The therapist helps the client rate the positive belief as well as the intensity of the negative emotions.  After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously engaging in EMDR processing using sets of DAS (dual attention stimuli).  These sets may include eye movements, taps, or tones.  The type and length of these sets is different for each client.  At this point, the EMDR client is instructed to just notice whatever spontaneously happens.


After each set of stimulation, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind.  Depending upon the client’s report, the clinician will choose the next focus of attention.  These repeated sets with directed focused attention occur numerous times throughout the session.  If the client becomes distressed or has difficulty in progressing, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client get back on track.

When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, (s)he is asked to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session.  At this time, the client may adjust the positive belief if necessary, and then focus on it and the distressing event at the same time, while going through more sets of DAS.

Phase 7

In Phase 7, closure, the therapist helps the client to put things away, and will remind the client of self care activities to do between sessions. The therapist may ask the client to keep a log during the week.  The log should document any related material that may arise.  It serves to remind the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in Phase 2.

Phase 8

The next session begins with Phase 8.  This phase consists of examining the progress made thus far.  The EMDR treatment processes all related historical events, current incidents that elicit distress, and future events that will require different responses (source: EMDR Institute, Inc.)

If you are in the Halifax, NS area, and you are looking for EMDR therapists, contact Lesley Hartman and Associates Inc. for information and an appointment. We have seven trained EMDR therapists to meet your needs. They can help you discover if Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing EMDR therapy is the right approach for you. 

Helpful EMDR




Why our unconscious rules us and what to do about it.


How memories keep us apart: The past is present.


Getting Past Your Past: Taking Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy

(March 26, 2013) by Francine Shapiro, PhD

On Amazon

Helpful Resource


Interview with

Francine Shapiro

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PHONE NUMBER:  (902) 431-1721


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