8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

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8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, commonly referred to as EMDR, is an effective treatment for many mental health disorders. It often treats trauma, PTSD, substance abuse issues, depression, anxiety, phobias, chronic pain and other emotional difficulties. Furthermore, this powerful technique has the potential to assist people cope with complex grief reactions, relationship troubles and low self-esteem problems.

EMDR therapy is an integrative treatment that combines psychotherapy and specific types of brain stimulation. Studies have repeatedly proven its efficacy, helping patients heal from emotional problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex trauma, chronic pain, addictions and severe anxiety.

The EMDR protocol is an 8-phase process that includes preparation, history and treatment planning, eye movements, bilateral focus of attention, reprocessing, and closure. It was created by psychologist Francine Shapiro who discovered how eye movements could help patients process distressing memories and emotions.

Phase 1: History and Preparation: You will meet with your therapist to discuss the event that brought you to therapy, as well as what benefits you hope to derive from EMDR therapy. Together, they’ll identify which memories are particularly upsetting or disturbing for you and work toward identifying them.

After your consultation with the therapist, you can begin therapy which may last up to 90 minutes. They will move their fingers in front of your face and ask you to focus on a memory that is upsetting or distressing you. Repeat these eye movements several times until the intensity of these memories has lessened and you are able to associate them with positive feelings.

Next, the therapist will use another form of brain stimulation to help you bring your traumatic memory into focus. This could include flashing lights on a bar or small disks that pulse when touched. If it’s difficult for you to move your eyes, they may use bilateral attention stimulation such as tapping or hand/toe movements instead.

Once the client has finished this phase, a re-evaluation takes place. The therapist will ask about the targeted memory and whether it is still causing you distress. If so, they may use a body scan to identify physical pains and sensations associated with that memory.

Body scans can reduce distress as they help your brain recognize that healing has taken place, similar to when you heal from an injury – the pain associated with the wound diminishes as your mind accepts there was no danger present.

Studies continue to be done on EMDR, which has become a standard treatment for various conditions like PTSD, chronic pain, addictions and even depression and suicide attempts. The American Psychiatric Association has even approved it as an initial treatment option for people suffering from PTSD. Clinical trials have confirmed its efficacy while no side effects have been reported during treatment.

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