Understanding The Basics of EMDR Therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a dynamic, unique treatment method for clients struggling with trauma-related symptoms. Today, numerous therapists and clinicians vouch for its impressive benefits. As a result, EMDR has surged in popularity over the past few years.

Do you struggle with your trauma symptoms? Do you want to learn more about how EMDR can help you? Let’s explore the basics of what you need to know.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a relatively new type of psychotherapy. Psychologist Francine Shapiro developed this profound technique in 1989 after a simple walk in the park. On this walk, she came to realize a powerful insight. Engaging in rapid eye movements (looking back and forth) helped reduce the distressing thoughts she was experiencing. Thus, a theory was born.

Since then, thousands of practitioners have become certified in EMDR therapy. Successful EMDR treatment helps people cope with the emotions and reactions associated with traumas. Likewise, when compared to traditional psychotherapy, some clients even heal at faster rates.

EMDR can be a standalone therapy. However, many clients engage in EMDR in conjunction with other forms of individual or group therapy.

Who Is Best Suited For EMDR?

EMDR was initially created to reduce the distress paired with traumatic memories. Today, it’s a widely-used practice that helps treat PTSD symptoms.

While everyone reacts to trauma differently, some people feel “stuck” in their coping processes. These warning signs of feeling stuck may include:

  • Continuously reliving of the trauma through nightmares or flashbacks
  • Avoiding people, objects, or places associated with the trauma
  • Experiencing pervasive anger, horror, fear, or shame
  • Struggling with sleep or appetite
  • Finding it difficult to focus or concentrate at work, school, or home
  • Feeling overstimulated or hyperactive in normal situations

While most research has focused on the impact of EMDR on trauma, therapists have used these techniques in treating other conditions like substance addictions, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders.

What To Expect From EMDR Therapy

EMDR includes learning, identifying, and healing painful parts of the past and present. The overarching goal is relatively simple. With repeated exposure and desensitization, people experience less intense and debilitating trauma symptoms.

Phase One

Initially, you and your therapist will identify the appropriate targets for your treatment. These targets usually include specific traumatic memories, but they can also include current triggers. With this information, you will both collaborate to create a viable treatment plan.

Phase Two

Your therapist will provide you with relaxation techniques to use when activated with distress. It is imperative that all clients receiving any form of trauma therapy understand and utilize these coping skills.

You will be asked to use these skills both in and out of session. Your therapist will also prepare you with education about what to expect during your EMDR therapy procedures.

Phase Three

In subsequent sessions, your therapist will help you activate target memories. This may include engaging in the visual images you hold. It may also include recognizing bodily sensations or negative core beliefs about oneself.

You will also assess the thoughts and feelings that arise when accessing target memories. You will work with these thoughts and feelings as part of your recovery process.

Phases Four-Seven

During these phases, your therapist will guide you into honing in on these memories while also engaging in repetitive sets of bilateral stimulation. These sets may include finger movements, hand or toe tapping, or even musical tones.

After completing the stimulation, you will share the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arose. If you start becoming distressed at any point, your therapist will pause and help you shift into a more present, neutral space before continuing forward.

Within this process, your mind and body start becoming desensitized to the targeted memories or triggers. Likewise, you will learn how to replace negative beliefs and cognitions with more positive and realistic ones.

Phase Eight

At the end of the session, your therapist will assess your current emotions. You will also determine any future targets to address.

The length of EMDR therapy varies for each individual. Building safety and connection with your therapist is imperative, and establishing this rapport may take several sessions. With that in mind, EMDR tends to be a brief treatment model. Most clients average between 6-12 sessions to process single-incident traumas.

The Next Steps

As a therapist certified in EMDR, I understand that facing and working through trauma can feel daunting and even impossible. It may seem frightening to think about processing events that happened to you ten, twenty, or even fifty years ago. However, EMDR therapy can help you move into a greater place of acceptance with both yourself and the world around you.

Are you interested in learning more about how EMDR can support you or a loved one? Contact me today to learn more.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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