EMDR Trauma Therapy Explained: Phases, Process, and More
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an extensively researched and highly effective form of psychotherapy for treating the aftermath of trauma and other distressing life experiences. Initially developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR therapy has been endorsed by numerous health organizations worldwide, including the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association.
This innovative therapeutic approach uses a structured eight-phase protocol to help clients process distressing memories and feelings, allowing them to reach psychological resolution and heal. Here’s what you should know about EMDR trauma therapy.
Treatment Planning and History
The first phase of EMDR involves the therapist taking a detailed history from the client. This includes an understanding of the client’s past experiences, significant life events, current circumstances, and future goals. It is also at this phase that a treatment plan is developed. Traumas or distressing experiences are identified and prioritized for processing.
Preparation for Therapy
The second phase, the Preparation Phase, is an important component of the process where the therapist equips the client with various coping strategies and tools. This includes teaching self-soothing techniques that clients can use during and outside of sessions. This preparation is crucial as it allows clients to feel safer and more in control when they start processing traumatic memories.
Assessment Using the Target Memory
During the Assessment Phase, the therapist will ask the client to focus on the most distressing part of a specific memory, including associated thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This becomes the target for processing.
Desensitization to the Event
In the Desensitization Phase, the client is guided to hold the target memory in mind while the therapist uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, taps, or tones. This facilitates the client’s information processing system and helps to reduce the emotional distress associated with the memory.
Installation of New Positive Belief
After successful desensitization, the Installation Phase begins. The aim here is to strengthen a positive belief that the client would like to hold in place of the original negative belief. The therapist continues with the bilateral stimulation to reinforce this positive cognition until it feels completely true to the client.
Body Scan to Check for Residual Trauma
Following the installation of a positive belief, the therapist will proceed to the Body Scan Phase. The client will be asked to think about the target memory and the new positive belief and notice if they feel any residual tension or discomfort in their body. If any distress is noted, further processing is done until the client reports no distress.
The Closure Phase ensures that the client leaves each session feeling better than when they arrived. The therapist will guide the client in using the self-soothing techniques learned in the Preparation Phase to help return to equilibrium. This phase is crucial for safety and stabilization.
Reevaluation and Follow-Ups
The final phase, Reevaluation, occurs at the start of each subsequent session. The therapist checks to ensure that the processing of the target memory has been maintained and that no new distress has emerged. This ensures that the therapy is progressing in the right direction.
Request a Free Consultation for EMDR Trauma Therapy with Empower Professional Counseling Services
If you or a loved one has been struggling with the aftermath of a traumatic experience, EMDR therapy might be the right option for you. Empower Professional Counseling Services offers EMDR trauma therapy to help individuals heal and regain control of their lives.
Contact us to request a free consultation and empower yourself.