EMDREye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a researched therapeutic method to treat people who have experienced a traumatic event in their lives that is impacting their current daily functioning. Often people who have experienced a traumatic event in their lives report that they feel like they are reliving the event every time they remember it. In their memories, the traumatic event is just as vivid as it was when it occurred.


EMDR helps people reprocess these memories so that they are less disturbing and impact the person’s daily life much less. With EMDR, a person may still remember the traumatic event, but the pain is no longer as intense or upsetting. People who go through EMDR therapy report a decrease or elimination of symptoms of post-traumatic stress and an improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety.


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What is an EMDR session like?

In an EMDR session, your counselor will start by having you remember a disturbing event or issue. You will be asked to recall what was seen, felt, heard, and thought. You will be asked about your current beliefs and thoughts regarding this event or issue. Your counselor will then work with you on the directional movement of the eyes or other stimulation of the brain while you are focusing on this disturbing event or issue.


You will be asked to focus on the disturbing event and notice whatever comes to mind, without trying to control the content or direction of the memory. Your counselor will work with you through various sets of eye movements until the memory becomes less traumatic and you are able to associate the memory with positive thoughts and beliefs about yourself.


During an EMDR session, you may experience intense emotions. In the end, however, most clients report feeling much better and wish they would have tried EMDR therapy sooner.


Our counselors understand the intensity of EMDR therapy and EMDR sessions at Heartland Counseling Center are only conducted with clients who feel safe in the counseling sessions and who have support systems in place to help them through those intense emotions.

Phases of EMDR:  

EMDR therapy is a process. EMDR therapy takes place over the course of 8 Phases. Some of these phases will be completed in a single session. Some phases will take place over the course of several sessions.


Phase I: History and Treatment Planning-the counselor will take a personal history from you and develop a treatment plan to address the problems that brought you to counseling. Your counselor will discuss with you what brings you to counseling, what current problems you are having, and will discuss treatment goals with you. One of the great aspects of EMDR therapy is that you do not have to use specific details when discussing the traumatic event with your counselor. So if you’re uncomfortable speaking about your past, EMDR therapy can still work for you.


Phase 2: Preparation- the counselor will teach you a set of calming and relaxation skills to use during and after EMDR sessions. EMDR therapy can be intense, so it is important that you have a set of calming skills you can use if you experience intense emotions during or after your EMDR sessions. Your counselor will also work with you to help develop a trusting relationship with him or her. While you don’t have to verbally say every detail of the traumatic event, it is important that you and your counselor have a trusting relationship in order for real progress to occur.


Phase 3: Assessment and Reprocessing- during this phase the counselor will ask you to recall a specific picture or memory that represents the traumatic event. You will be asked to express a negative self-statement associated with that event, even if you know that statement to be false. The counselor will then work with you to change that negative self-statement into a positive one. The thought behind this phase is that often people “know” their negative self-statements to be false but they “feel” otherwise.


Phase 4: Desensitization- during this phase the counselor will lead you through a set of eye movements while you are focusing on an image, a negative cognition, and/or a disturbing emotion. The counselor will then ask you to follow a moving object with your eyes. After a set of eye movements, you will be asked to report on the thoughts, feelings, images, etc. that were elicited during the process.


Phase 5: Installation- during this phase, the counselor will work with you to strengthen your belief in the positive self-statement. The counselor will ask you about the positive cognition, if itʹs still valid for you. Ongoing work may need to occur in phases 4 and 5.


Phase 6: Body Scan- during this phase the counselor will ask you to recall the original picture or scene and see if there is any physical body tension. If you continue to have physical reactions to the original picture, then the counselor will work to reprocess the physical response as well.


Phase 7: Closure-every EMDR session is ended by ensuring that you leave the session feeling better than at the beginning of the session. The counselor will then make sure you know and can use appropriate calming skills between sessions as some additional memories may arise between sessions.


Phase 8: Reevaluation- at the beginning of each new EMDR session, the counselor will check in with you to make sure that you have been having positive results and see if new areas need treatment.


Is EMDR therapy only for people suffering from PTSD?

No. In addition to treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR can also be used to help people struggling with:


  • Personality disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Grief
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Disturbing memories
  • Phobias
  • Pain disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Stress reduction
  • Addictions
  • Sexual and/or physical abuse
  • Body dysmorphic disorders

How do you know EMDR really works?

EMDR has been researched and developed over the past 35 years and approximately 20 studies have researched the effects of EMDR. Studies have consistently found that EMDR decreases or eliminates symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder for a majority of clients. An estimated 2 million people have been helped through the use of EMDR! Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our EMDR Counselors.  

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(Information for this page was gathered from EMDR International Association and EMDR Network).