Get 24/7 Help

All about EMDR Therapy and What to Expect

July 5, 2023

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy has gained popularity as an effective treatment for trauma, anxiety, and other emotional difficulties. 

Developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, this therapeutic approach combines elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with bilateral stimulation to help individuals process distressing memories and experiences. 

We will explore all aspects of EMDR therapy and provide valuable insights into what you can expect throughout the treatment journey.

What is an EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy, short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, is a specialized and highly effective form of psychotherapy used to treat individuals who have experienced trauma, distressing events, or other emotional difficulties. 

The main goal of EMDR therapy is to help individuals process and heal from disturbing memories and experiences that have become unprocessed and stored in the brain in a dysfunctional way. These unprocessed memories can lead to emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

By addressing and reprocessing these traumatic memories, EMDR aims to reduce their emotional impact and promote emotional healing and resilience. 

The science behind EMDR therapy suggests that this bilateral stimulation may activate hemispheres of the brain, facilitating the integration of traumatic memories. 

The process is thought to mimic the rapid eye movement experienced during REM sleep, which is believed to be involved in memory consolidation and emotional processing.

What are some Benefits of EMDR therapy?

EMDT therapy is a cutting-edge therapeutic approach that has gained widespread recognition for its effectiveness in treating various psychological challenges.

Effective Treatment for PTSD:

One of the primary benefits of EMDR therapy lies in its efficacy in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research has shown that EMDR can significantly reduce the intensity of intrusive memories and distressing emotions associated with traumatic experiences, helping individuals find emotional stability and resilience.

Anxiety Reduction:

EMDR therapy has proven to be a valuable tool in managing anxiety disorders. By reprocessing distressing memories that fuel anxiety, individuals can gain control over their anxious thoughts and develop healthier coping mechanisms. This leads to a reduction in overall anxiety levels and a greater sense of calm and well-being.

Phobia Resolution:

For those suffering from phobias, EMDR therapy offers a pathway to resolution. By targeting the root cause of the phobia, often tied to past negative experiences, EMDR can desensitize the emotional charge linked to the fear. As a result, individuals can gradually overcome their phobias and engage in activities that were once anxiety-inducing.

Emotional Healing and Growth:

EMDR therapy fosters emotional healing by addressing deep-seated emotional wounds. By reprocessing traumatic memories and negative beliefs, individuals can experience a profound sense of relief and release from emotional burdens. This process lays the foundation for personal growth and a more positive outlook on life.

Enhanced Self-Esteem:

As EMDR therapy helps individuals overcome past traumas and negative self-perceptions, there is a natural boost in self-esteem and self-worth. The therapy enables individuals to see themselves in a more positive light, empowering them to make healthier life choices and build stronger relationships.

A Holistic Approach:

EMDR therapy takes a holistic approach to healing, addressing not only the symptoms but also the root causes of emotional distress. By exploring the interconnectedness of thoughts, emotions, and memories, individuals can achieve a more comprehensive healing experience.

Ease of Implementation:

EMDR therapy is a non-invasive and straightforward treatment that can be tailored to meet individual needs. Its adaptable nature makes it suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds, ensuring accessibility to those seeking emotional support and growth.

Effective Coping Mechanisms:

Through EMDR therapy, individuals learn effective coping mechanisms to manage stress and emotional challenges in their daily lives. These newfound skills empower them to face future difficulties with resilience and confidence.

Safe and Supported Environment:

During EMDR therapy sessions, patients are provided with a safe and supported environment by skilled therapists. This sense of security allows individuals to explore their emotions without fear of judgment, fostering a deeper healing process.

What are the Eight Phases of EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is a unique and effective treatment approach for addressing various psychological conditions, particularly trauma-related disorders. 

Here are the 8 phases of EMDR therapy:

  1. History-Taking and Treatment Planning: The first phase involves gathering comprehensive information about the client’s history, traumatic experiences, and current emotional challenges. The therapist and client collaboratively develop a treatment plan that outlines specific targets for the therapy.
  2. Preparation: This phase focuses on establishing a safe and trusting therapeutic environment. The therapist helps the client develop coping skills and relaxation techniques to ensure they can manage any emotional distress that may arise during the subsequent phases.
  3. Assessment: In this phase, the therapist identifies the specific memories or events that are causing emotional distress. The client is guided to recall the targeted memories while observing the associated negative beliefs and emotions.
  4. Desensitization: During the desensitization phase, the therapist uses bilateral stimulation, such as side-to-side eye movements or other forms like tapping or auditory cues. This process helps the client reprocess the traumatic memories, reducing their emotional intensity.
  5. Installation: In this step, positive beliefs and thoughts are installed to replace the negative beliefs that were associated with the traumatic memories. The client is encouraged to adopt more adaptive and empowering perspectives about themselves and the traumatic events.
  6. Body Scan: The therapist helps the client identify and release any residual physical tension or discomfort associated with the targeted memories. This step contributes to a deeper sense of relaxation and emotional relief.
  7. Closure: At the end of each session, the therapist ensures that the client is emotionally stable and grounded. Any unfinished processing is contained, and the client is equipped with coping skills to handle any emotions that may arise between sessions.
  8. Reevaluation: The final phase involves evaluating the progress made in previous sessions and identifying any remaining issues that require further attention. The therapist and client work together to address these concerns and continue the healing process.

Now, What to Expect from EMDR therapy?

Assessment and Preparation:

The EMDR process typically begins with an initial assessment. Your therapist will gather information about your medical history, current emotional challenges, and any traumatic experiences you wish to address. This phase lays the foundation for a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Understanding the Eight Phases:

EMDR therapy consists of eight phases, each serving a unique purpose in the healing process. Your therapist will explain these phases to you, ensuring you have a clear understanding of what to expect as therapy progresses.

Identifying Target Memories:

Together with your therapist, you will identify the target memories or distressing events that you want to address during the therapy. These may be past traumas, negative beliefs, or distressing experiences that continue to affect your emotional well-being.

Bilateral Stimulation:

One of the distinctive features of EMDR therapy is the use of bilateral stimulation, often achieved through side-to-side eye movements. The therapist may also use alternate forms like tapping or auditory cues. Bilateral stimulation facilitates the reprocessing of distressing memories, reducing their emotional intensity.

Processing and Emotional Release:

During the desensitization phase, the therapist will guide you to focus on the targeted memories while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. This process allows your brain to reprocess the memories, leading to a decrease in emotional distress and the release of negative emotions associated with the memories.

Positive Belief Installation:

As distressing memories are reprocessed, your therapist will guide you in replacing negative beliefs with more adaptive and positive thoughts. This positive belief installation promotes emotional healing and resilience.

Potential Emotional Intensity:

It’s essential to be prepared for potential emotional intensity during EMDR sessions. The therapy may evoke strong emotions, but your therapist will provide coping strategies to help you manage any emotional reactions that arise.

Ongoing Support and Aftercare:

EMDR therapy is not a one-time event but a process that unfolds over several sessions. Your therapist will offer ongoing support and guidance throughout the journey. Additionally, they will provide aftercare recommendations to help you continue your healing outside of therapy sessions.

Progress and Growth:

As you engage in EMDR therapy, you may notice positive changes in your emotional well-being and coping mechanisms. The therapy aims to foster emotional growth and resilience, helping you move forward from past traumas and emotional wounds.

Respecting Your Pace:

The therapeutic journey is unique to each individual. Your therapist will work at your pace, ensuring you feel safe and supported throughout the process. It’s essential to communicate openly with your therapist about your feelings and needs.


EMDR therapy is a transformative journey that offers the potential for profound emotional healing and growth. Expect to undergo assessment, process targeted memories with bilateral stimulation, and experience emotional release. 

Your therapist will guide you through the eight phases of EMDR therapy, offering support and aftercare to help you achieve lasting positive change. By embracing the process with an open mind and a willingness to heal, you can embark on a path of self-discovery and emotional well-being.

FAQs about EMDR Therapy:

Q: What is the duration of an EMDR session?

A: EMDR sessions typically last between 60 to 90 minutes. The length may vary based on the individual’s needs and the complexity of the issues being addressed.

Q: Can EMDR be used for children?

A: Yes, EMDR can be adapted for children and adolescents, providing an effective therapeutic option for young individuals dealing with trauma and emotional challenges.

Q: Is EMDR a standalone treatment?

A: EMDR can be a standalone treatment for some individuals, but in other cases, it may be integrated with other therapeutic approaches to enhance its effectiveness.

Q: Are there any potential side effects of EMDR therapy?

A: EMDR therapy is generally considered safe, but some individuals may experience temporary feelings of emotional discomfort during the reprocessing of traumatic memories.

Q: How many EMDR sessions are typically required?

A: The number of EMDR sessions needed can vary depending on the individual and the severity of their symptoms. While some may see significant improvements after just a few sessions, others may require more extended treatment.

Q: Can EMDR be done remotely?

A: Yes, EMDR can be conducted through teletherapy, allowing individuals to access the treatment remotely from the comfort of their homes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.