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3 Favorite Techniques I Learned From EMDR

I am in the process of completing an EMDR training this summer, and I have to say that EMDR is nothing like I have ever experienced. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is a treatment developed by Francine Shapiro for reducing the distress connected with traumatic memories. A huge part of the training involves practicing the EMDR techniques with fellow trainees.

In both witnessing and experiencing the amazing effects of EMDR, I felt inspired to share a few of my favorite techniques.

1) The Floatback Technique

The floatback technique refers to letting the mind “float back” to an earlier memory that may be contributing to current traumatic symptoms and dysfunction. (You can find more information about this technique in Francince Shapiro’s EMDR books and training manuals.) I’m fascinated by this technique because there may be information tucked away in the brain/body that may not be easy to access with mere questioning.

The clinician prompts the client to simply “hold” the image and/or negative cognition, notice whatever body sensations come up, and allow the brain to then go back to an earlier memory when these sensations came up.

During EMDR training as “the client”, the issue that I chose to work on was my car anxiety, which I originally attributed to a car accident I was in a few years prior. However, when I was prompted to use the floatback technique, my mind went to a childhood memory of being in the car and my mom yelling at me. Just that simple technique allowed me to process something that I wasn’t immediately aware of.

2) The Safe/Calm Place

The Safe/Calm Place technique refers to prompting clients to think about a place in their imagination that promotes feelings of safety or calmness. It’s also important to make sure that this place has no associations with trauma. (For example, if you had a near-drowning experience at the beach, do not pick the beach!)

This should be practiced regularly, but it’s helpful to “test” this technique when thinking about anything that could be slightly annoying or stressful to make sure that it works. (For instance, running a few minutes late to an appointment may be a slight annoyance/stressor.) If you (1) notice your stress level increase, (2) access your Safe/Calm Place, and then (3) notice a calming shift in your body, you are strengthening an internal coping mechanism.

3) The Stop Signal

I suppose this itself is not really a technique, but one of the things I love about EMDR is the strong emphasis on giving patients more control of the pace of their treatment. This includes preparing a “stop signal” (such as raising a hand) to pause treatment and to access Safe/Calm Place, if needed. This can be great for clients who are feeling a great pressure to heal through their trauma quickly or to “do therapy right”. You merely allow your brain to heal on its own! But if it feels unmanageable at any point, you have the power to stop.


  • Do you have any experiences with EMDR? If so, were they positive or negative?

  • Are there any EMDR techniques that you have found particularly helpful (either as a clinician or a patient)?

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