What is EMDR?

A Therapeutic Treatment for Trauma, Anxiety, and Mental Health Challenges

What is EMDR?

EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, was discovered in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, who identified the benefits of bilateral stimulation (BLS) for processing memories in order to enable the brain and body to heal in a natural way. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, similar to what happens in REM or dream sleep, through eye movements (tones, tapping, and other forms of BLS), which helps reprocess the memory and other associated experiences. 

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What does EMDR help?

The results from evidence-based research have proven this EMDR successful in treating PTSD, trauma, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, stress, phobias, sleep problems, complicated grief, addictions, pain relief, phantom limb pain, self-esteem, and performance anxiety. EMDR can accelerate therapy by resolving the impact of your past traumas and allowing you to live more fully in the present. EMDR can be utilized not only to process past trauma but also present challenges and future issues because of the effectiveness of focusing on replacing negative cognitions (beliefs) with positive cognitions about self and increasing awareness about body tension.

What is an EMDR session like? 

During EMDR treatment, you will remain fully alert as this is not a form of hypnosis. You can stop the process at any time. EMDR is conducted in eight phases, with the first two phases feeling like “normal” therapy because the BLS (bilateral stimulation) doesn’t begin until Phase 3. For BLS, your therapist may use the traditional eye movement technique, guiding you to watch their finger moving backward and forwards across your visual field, butterfly tapping with your hands crossed over your chest and tapping your shoulders like a hug, or using a pulsing device that you hold in your hands.

Phase 1: History Taking & Treatment Planning

  • Obective: Establish a therapeutic relationship and gather information.
  • What to Expect: Your therapist will take a detailed history, understand your symptoms, and create a treatment plan.
  • Timeline: It may take a single session or multiple sessions.

Phase 2: Preparation & Resourcing

  • Objective: Equip clients with coping mechanisms.
  • What to Expect: Your therapist will teach stress-reduction techniques and ensure you have healthy coping skills before starting the trauma processing.
  • Timeline: It may take a single session or multiple sessions.

Phase 3: Assessment & Targeting

  • Objective: Identify target memories for processing, which can be acute (present-day issue), past trauma, clustered (around a theme), or future (anticipating an event or experience). Clarify negative cognitions related to the target and the desired positive cognition as the outcome of EMDR.
  • What to Expect: Work with your therapist to identify specific distressing memories or experiences to target during the EMDR sessions.
  • Timeline: It may take a single session or multiple sessions to identify targets.

Phase 4: Desensitization 

  • Objective: Reduce emotional intensity associated with traumatic memories.
  • What to Expect: Using bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tapping, or sounds), you'll focus on distressing memories while your therapist helps you process and integrate them.
  • Timeline: One target may resolve in a single session or require additional processing in future sessions.

Phase 5: Installation

  • Objective: Strengthen positive beliefs.
  • What to Expect: Positive cognitions developed during desensitization are reinforced, helping you replace negative beliefs with positive ones.
  • Timeline: This occurs simultaneously with Phase 4.

Phase 6: Body Sensations

  • Objective: Address any residual physical tension.
  • What to Expect: Your therapist will guide you in identifying and releasing any remaining physical tension related to the processed memories.
  • Timeline: This occurs simultaneously with Phases 4 and 5.

Phase 7: Closure

  • Objective: Ensure stability between sessions.
  • What to Expect: Each session ends with a review of coping skills, ensuring you feel grounded and stable before leaving.
  • Timeline: This occurs simultaneously with Phases 4, 5, and 6.

Phase 8: Reevaluation

  • Objective: Assess progress and address any remaining issues.
  • What to Expect: Periodically review treatment goals, ensuring that all targeted memories have been processed, and addressing any new issues that may arise.
  • Timeline: This phase occurs at the onset of the next session following the processing of a target memory.

Note: EMDR is a highly individualized therapy, and the pace at which each phase is completed can vary. Always communicate openly with your therapist about your experience and progress.

Is EMDR for me?

If you would like to explore EMDR as a treatment option, you should discuss it with your therapist. While you can find numerous resources for “self” EMDR, the processing of traumatic memories should only be done by a trained clinician to achieve the desired healing.

How can I get started?

To receive EMDR treatment, you need to be established with an EMDR-trained therapist. If you would like to work with Lisa, and live in PA or are able to invest in travel to PA, you can submit an appointment request using the form below. 

Consultation Request Form

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