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  • How does EMDR Work? The 8 Phases of EMDR

    If you have found this article, you have likely been googling topics related to EMDR Therapy or trauma treatment. You are wondering “how does EMDR work?” and, more importantly, “how it can help me?” 

    In this article, we are going to break down the EMDR process, discuss the 8 phases of treatment, and answer the question: How does EMDR work? 

    What is EMDR?

    Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a newer therapy treatment that primarily treats trauma, although it has also proven very effective in treating depression and anxiety

    During EMDR, an experienced therapist guides you through specific eye movements while helping you reprocess troubling memories, emotions, and beliefs. This reprocessing allows you to build greater emotional regulation and resilience. That way, you aren’t as distressed when you recall the troubling memory or belief. 

    How Does EMDR Work?

    EMDR involves a series of guided eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation (such as tapping or auditory tones) while focusing on a traumatic memory or negative belief that is associated with the memory. The bilateral stimulation activates both sides of the brain while you process these memories. By giving your conscious mind a repetitive motion to focus on, you will be able to recall distressing experiences while having one foot in the memory and one foot in the here and now. 

    The goal of EMDR is to desensitize you to the negative feelings that usually accompany the memory. That way, when the memory resurfaces in the future, it won’t feel as distressing. 

    How Does EMDR Work, Specifically? The 8 Phases of EMDR

    The EMDR therapy process consists of 8 phases that are designed to help individuals process traumatic experiences and negative beliefs. These phases are:

    (1) History-Taking

    During the history-taking phase, your therapist will ask you questions and take a detailed history of your life. They will gather information about your current life circumstances, what values are important to you, what your childhood was like, and more. Your therapist will also attempt to identify information about your experiences or beliefs that will be the focus of therapy. This information will allow your EMDR-trained therapist to put together a treatment plan that addresses your needs. 

    (2) Preparation

    During the preparation phase, your therapist will teach you coping skills and relaxation techniques to help you manage any distress that may arise during sessions. This may include breathing exercises, visualization techniques, or other strategies to help you feel more grounded. You will also work on building rapport with your therapist to increase feelings of comfort and safety during your sessions. During the treatment session, your therapist guides you to utilize metaphors and stop signals so you feel in control of the experience. 

    (3) Assessment

    During the assessment phase, your therapist will help you identify the specific negative beliefs and emotions that are associated with the traumatic experiences. You will work together to determine the most appropriate targets for treatment. They will also help you to establish goals for the therapy. 

    (4) Desensitization 

    During this phase, you will focus on a traumatic memory or negative belief while engaging in bilateral stimulation. Some examples of bilateral stimulation include: Eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones. While engaging in these motions, you will process memories, thoughts, and beliefs with your EMDR therapist. 

    (5) Installation

    In the installation phase, your therapist will help you replace the negative belief with a positive one that reflects reality. This may involve guided visualization exercises or other techniques to help you develop a new, more positive perspective. Installation allows you to challenge incorrect beliefs about yourself that resulted from trauma.

    For example, someone who experienced childhood abuse may form the belief, “I am unlovable.” That person then works with their EMDR-trained therapist to establish a positive belief in its place, such as, “I am worthy of love.” 

    (6) Body Scan

    Much of the theory behind EMDR therapy follows that trauma is held in the body. During the body scan phase, you will check in with your body and notice any residual physical sensations related to the traumatic memory. This can help you become more aware of the ways in which the trauma has affected you and can help you identify any areas where you may still need further processing.

    (7) Closure

    The closure phase is all about ensuring that you feel grounded and emotionally stable before ending the session. Your EMDR therapist may guide you through a relaxation exercise or grounding technique to help you feel calm, centered, and in control. This phase is important because it helps you feel safe and supported throughout the EMDR process.

    (8) Re-Evaluation

    During this final phase, your therapist will work with you to evaluate progress and determine whether additional sessions are needed. You will also have the chance to discuss if you have achieved your goals for therapy and whether you feel you need additional sessions. 

    Final Thoughts

    EMDR therapy is a powerful tool for anyone who is seeking relief from symptoms of traumaanxiety, and/or depression. By targeting specific negative beliefs and traumatic experiences and using bilateral stimulation, EMDR therapy can help you process these memories in a safe environment. The eight phases of EMDR therapy work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs. So, if you are struggling with the aftermath of a traumatic experience and asking yourself “how does EMDR work?” – know that EMDR therapy can be a transformative journey towards healing, growth, and a brighter future.

    Fearlessly Inspired Therapeutic Solutions Can Help

    Fearlessly Inspired Therapeutic Solutions (“FITS”) in Maryland and D.C. can help! If you are looking for an experienced EMDR practice that can help you find long-lasting relief from the symptoms of traumaanxiety, and depression, look no further. With over 22 years of experience in the mental health field, our therapists are dedicated to providing effective care to anyone seeking to improve their mental and emotional well-being.

    We understand that trauma can have an impact on every aspect of your life, and we are committed to helping you find relief from symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional distress.

    If you would like to talk more about the question “How does EMDR work” or would like to discuss what EMDR can do for you, contact us at  301-750-1065, so we can take the first step towards healing together!