Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a psychotherapy that is used to help clients heal from disturbing life events. EMDR can be used with children, adolescents, and adults. EMDR has an 8-phase treatment protocol that helps clients reprocess traumatic memory so that the brain does not overreact to past trauma.

The EMDR Process

EMDR can be quite effective in just a short period of time, but exactly how long it takes will depend on the client’s unique experience. For some, the 8-phase process can be completed in a few hours, whereas someone with multiple traumas will likely take longer.

EMDR involves eight phases:

Phase One: EMDR starts by identifying potential targets for EMDR processing through reviewing the client’s history. With the therapist, the client finds memories or situations that are distressing to target so they can learn skills to help them with this trauma going forward.

Phase Two: In Phase Two, the therapist helps the client with learning new skills to help them manage emotional distress. For example, they may use imagery or stress reduction techniques that can be used outside of the session.

Phase Three to Six: With a target identified, the EMDR processing procedure is put into play. The client identifies four things:

1) a vivid image associated with the memory,
2) a negative belief about themselves,
3) related body sensations and emotions, and
4) a new positive belief to replace it.

Then, the therapist will ask the client to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations as they implement bilateral stimulation.

After this is finished, the therapist will lead the patient to a meditative state and ask about what feelings or thoughts come up. Then, the therapist may approach a new focus of attention in a new set; this might happen multiple times through a session. Once a client reports no more distress around a memory, the therapist will ask them to focus on the positive, replacement thought.

Phase Seven: During the seventh phase, the therapist will finish the session and the client will keep track of any thoughts and feelings that come up during the week. They may implement the techniques the therapist went over in phase two.

Phase Eight: Phase eight begins at the next session, when the therapist assesses the progress made from the previous session. They can then pivot their strategy according to the needs of the client.

What Does EMDR Treat?

EMDR can be used to address a variety of problems, such as:

  • PTSD from physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse
  • Distressing memories
  • Complicated grief
  • Substance use
  • Phobias
  • Panic disorders
  • Pain disorders
  • Dissociation
  • Performance anxiety
  • Stress
  • Personality disorders

Is EMDR Effective?

The research around EMDR supports it as a very effective treatment for trauma. One study found that 100% of single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple-trauma victims no longer met the qualifications to be diagnosed with PTSD after only six EMDR sessions.

EMDR therapy can be an effective treatment for PTSD and other distressing psychological problems. If you are interested in learning more, contact our Licensed EMDR Therapist in Prairie Village.