Part 2: Exploring the 8 Phases of EMDR

If you are struggling to cope with the effects of past trauma, you might be curious about the benefits of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR. But if you’re not familiar with EMDR, you may be wondering if it’s really the best choice for you.

EMDR is quite different from traditional talk therapy. Therefore, it’s perfectly normal to have lots of questions about the process! Learning more about EMDR in advance can help you decide whether or not you should pursue this form of therapy, or simply feel a bit more comfortable before your very first session. Here is a basic breakdown of the eight stages of EMDR.

1. History Taking

First, your therapist will need to gain a clear picture of your personal history. You’ll talk about what brought you to therapy and give some general details about your history of trauma. Your therapist will also start to develop your initial treatment plan, paying special attention to specific traumatic events that you want to process. Furthermore, they’ll assess your resources, including your existing coping strategies and your current support system.

2. Preparation

The preparation stage is all about establishing a trustworthy relationship between you and your therapist. They will go over the steps of the therapeutic process with you and take the time to answer any questions you might have. They’ll also start reviewing skills you can use to calm down if you feel emotionally distressed.

3. Assessment

Next, you and your therapist will work together to decide which traumatic event you should target or reprocess. You’ll also identify the specific emotions, beliefs, and physical sensations that tend to accompany your memories of this event. Additionally, you’ll determine your emotional baseline so you can figure out what feels neutral to you and consider which positive beliefs you’d like to instill instead.

4. Desensitization

In the desensitization phase, your therapist will guide you with side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or motions such as finger taps while you focus on the target event. This will continue until you no longer feel any emotional distress, even if this feeling isn’t permanent. You’ll also note any new sensations that crop up during this process.

5. Installation

During installation, you’ll begin working on associating your chosen positive belief with the target event. You’ll focus on strengthening this belief and cementing this association until it feels genuinely authentic.

6. Body Scan

After moving through the installation phase, your therapist will guide you through a body scan. As you keep the target event in mind, as well as your positive belief, you’ll “scan” your body from head to toe and note any areas where you still feel tension. Next, your therapist will support you as you reprocess the remaining emotional disturbances.

7. Closure

Your therapist will help you return to an emotionally calm state after going through your body scan. It’s okay if your entire reprocessing isn’t complete. Your therapist will simply allow you to get back to a neutral emotional state. By this point, your positive belief may feel entirely true, and your body should feel free of emotional turmoil.

8. Reevaluation

You’ll start every new session with a reevaluation process. Not only will you talk to your therapist about your recently processed memories, but your therapist will also check in to make sure that you’re not feeling distressed. You’ll share your feelings regarding your positive belief and whether or not it has stuck, as well as talk about your plans for the next sessions.

Are you curious about whether EMDR is right for you? Talking to a therapist can help you learn more. Reach out to us to discuss your options for EMDR intensives.