EMDR and Mindfulness


EMDR refers to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in an effort to help her manage her own anxiety, EMDR has become a widely used treatment method for anxiety, trauma, depression, and substance abuse. Mindfulness and EMDR go hand in hand.

Dr. Shapiro writes that like the body works to heal a physical wound, so too does the brain work to heal a mental trauma. When blocks are put up, however, that healing can be prolonged. In life, we create blockades to our own healing all the time. For many reasons, our ability to give, receive, and be love, becomes thwarted in the face of fear, masked by persisting symptoms of emotional pain. EMDR seeks to shorten the healing process by working directly with the brain to promote wellness and healing.

Through a series of treatment sessions, each using different methods of bilateral stimulation, memories are brought to the surface. Triggered by the eye movements, the painful memories can be wooed out of their hiding and greeted with compassion. In real time, a patient’s’ attachment to their traumatic experiences transform.

Practicing mindfulness can have similar results when relating our thoughts to ourselves and to others. Without the ability to connect to our past in order to heal it, we cannot move forward from it. EMDR presents a unique opportunity to be incredibly present with the past. As each memory comes up, EMDR offers the chance to be non-judgmental, non-critical, and non-shaming. Just as the EMDR process itself changes the impact of memories, mindfulness can have a hand in creating new attachments to the past of these memories and the present of healing them.

An information processing theory was created by. Dr. Shapiro to better explain how EMDR has an effect. She explains that “The information processing system processes the multiple elements of our experiences and stores memories in an accessible and useful form. Memories are linked in networks that contain related thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations. Learning occurs when new associations are forged with material already stored in memory.” Incorporating mindfulness into the EMDR practice fosters a spiritual learning in addition to new memory. Mindful thoughts can be associated with the previously stored memories, creating a new attachment of loving kindness and compassion.


Refuge Recovery has seen the union of EMDR and mindfulness based training effect immense change in our client’s lives. We offer an integrative approach to recovery in an effort to empower our clients to live their best possible authentic lives with long-term sobriety. For more information on our treatment programs call 323-207-0276.

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