Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy.

It is popular, particularly for treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Panic attacks, Eating disorders, Addictions and Anxiety.

EMDR does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, EMDR uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. With the help of an EMDR therapist, these eye movements can decrease the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events.

Untitled-design-2024-06-09T153649.658 What is EMDR?

Phases of EMDR

EMDR can be separated into eight phases. The first three basically help identify the issues to be addressed during therapy and explain how the process works.

  • Phase 1: Information gathering and sharing: This includes a conversation about why you’ve come to therapy and some information about your personal history. Your therapist will also come up with a treatment plan in phase 1.
  • Phase 2: Preparation: The main purpose of phase 2 is for the therapist to explain how EMDR works and how to manage hard or upsetting emotions that may come up during sessions.
  • Phase 3: Assessment: During phase 3, you and your therapist identify the traumatic events or circumstances you want to address during therapy. This includes talking about details of the events and the emotions around them, as well as ideas about how you would like to think and feel about them in the future.
  • Phase 4: Desensitisation: During phase 4, you focus on the target memory while your therapist leads you through eye movements. You also share any new thoughts or feelings about the source of your trauma.
  • Phase 5: Installation: This is a key part of therapy. It’s when you start to attach positive feelings and thoughts to a memory that has previously been tied to traumatic or unpleasant emotions.
  • Phase 6: Body scan: As you think about a memory that is the target of your therapy, you pay close attention to any physical responses you have. The goal is that as therapy goes on, you will have fewer and fewer negative physical symptoms until you have none at all.
  • Phase 7: Closure: This is how many sessions will end. Your EMDR therapist helps you keep a state of calm and a sense of security. You and your therapist talk about how the target memories have been processed and how you feel about them now. Your therapist also gives you ways to manage any emotional challenges that may come up between sessions.
  • Phase 8: Re-evaluation: Though this is phase 8, it’s also how most sessions begin once the active part of therapy has started. It’s a time for you and your therapist to figure out how therapy is going and talk about any new memories, feelings, or thoughts that have come out since the previous session. Phase 8 is also used to make any changes to your treatment plan.

The seventh and eighth phases are meant to return you to a calmer state and find out how the therapy sessions are going. All phases are important, but not all phases are included in every session with a therapist.

What Can You Expect From an EMDR session?

For EMDR treatment to deal with one traumatic event or memory, you might have between three and six sessions.

If the disturbing event is more complicated or happened over a long period of time, you might need eight to 12 sessions, or even more.

An EMDR treatment session can be as long as 90 minutes.

Your therapist will move their fingers back and forth in front of your face and ask you to follow these hand motions with your eyes.

At the same time, the EMDR therapist will have you recall a disturbing event. This will include the emotions and body sensations that go along with it.

Gradually, the therapist will guide you to shift your thoughts to more pleasant ones. Some therapists use alternatives to finger movements, such as tapping sounds or musical tones.

People who use the technique say EMDR can weaken the effect of negative emotions. Before and after each EMDR treatment, your therapist will ask you to rate your level of distress. The hope is that your disturbing memories will become less disabling.

Any type of bilateral stimulation can be helpful in the processing of traumatic or stressful memories. Self-administered EMDR can include walking, jogging, drum circles, tapping (bilaterally), and even horse riding.