Eye movement desensitization reprogramming

As incredible as the human brain is at storing and processing thoughts, feelings and experiences throughout our lifetime, sometimes, our brain mistakenly autocorrects our present experiences with past ones that aren’t necessarily helpful. By understanding that 2/3’s of our brain belongs to a survival system called the “Default Mode Network,” we often spend too much time navigating the various threats that our brains falsely perceive. Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy helps us rewire our brains to be more effective while giving us more control over our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In addition, EMDR increases performance by reducing the unnecessary stress caused by anxiety, depression, fear, and trauma.

EMDR was originally designed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s as a psychotherapy treatment that targeted and alleviated traumatic memories. EMDR therapy "facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences to bring these to an adaptive resolution" (EMDR Institute Inc.). By accessing these memories and their associated negative core beliefs, an individual establishes the formation of new adaptive/positive beliefs that essentially rewrite the old maladaptive/negative neural pathways. 


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How does it work?

EMDR is done using bilateral stimulation, which uses something you can see, hear, or touch that moves from side to side – Kind of like when we play Pong! By accessing negative memories and their associated negative core beliefs, an individual can establish the formation of new positive beliefs that essentially rewrite the old negative neural pathways. Typically, eye movements (hand or light bars) or “tappers” (a machine that vibrates in the hands) are used in the session. This works because it imitates the back and forth communication between the left and right brain when memories are formed and stored while we sleep. EMDR accesses this cheat code, but while you are awake and in control.

Who can utilize EMDR?

EMDR for athletes, e-sports, business, and performers

Performance anxiety and slumps are the 2 most common negative experiences in high-performance settings and only exist when a negative core belief is pushing the buttons and pulling the levers in our brains. When you lose a game or blow a meeting, you may automatically tell yourself that you have “failed” or have feelings of “not being good enough.” In the next game or next meeting, your “Default Mode Network” is activated because it doesn’t want you to fail again so it bombards you with “don’t miss this shot,” “don’t say anything stupid” or “everything is riding on this moment,” and then you are completely engulfed in fear. EMDR gets you out of slumps because it is able to permanently change the belief of “I am a failure” to “I am worthy” or “I am good enough,” which deactivates the internal alarm system and allows a person to access positive self talk and high levels of confidence more easily in future experiences.

EMDR for performance anxiety

You have a “big game” coming up which people keep talking about and with every passing second before the first kickoff, face-off, tip-off, drive, or sound of the track gun, you feel a pressure physically weighing on your body as you try over and over again to “block it off.” Your mind is now a reality TV show that haters can tune into to laugh at providing video evidence to your coach and teammates to blame the upcoming loss on. You’ve lost precious sleep, been completely unable to focus on your studies or notice your friends and family as you binge watch your incoming doom. Can you feel it? It must be true...How has this happened?! Your brain does not know the difference between real life and imagined life.”I’m a failure,” “I’m not important”...these are the words that are faintly visible across the screen as you watch your poor performance over and over again in your head. Your beautiful clever brain has decided to remind you of every other time you felt this way in every game you’ve ever played and it is beginning to feel inevitable that the game will not go the way you want it to. Just when you think you’ve seen every episode of your athletic life, your brain begins to remind your body of times you felt this way at school, at work, and at home when you were much younger. “I’m a failure...I’m not important...”


History and treatment planning

  • 1-2 sessions

  • History taking and target events created



  • Up to 1-4 sessions

  • Establish coping and relaxation techniques


Assessment (reprocessing)

  • 3+ sessions

  • Identify negative emotions and target event



  • 3+ sessions

  • Eye movements/tappers used in the session



  • 2+ sessions

  • Strengthen positive beliefs


Body scan

  • 1+ session

  • Notice body tension and body responses to EMDR



  • Ends every session

  • Self-calming techniques



  • Starts every session

  • Revisits treatment plan

Phases of EMDR: What to expect

Alex Schinke
Registered Psychologist
Mat de Moissac
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Kayla Unrau
Unlicensed Mental Health Therapist
Katie Sharpe
Master of Counselling Student
Lindsay Piper
Master of Counselling Student

Practitioners offering EMDR at Mindbuffs