What Is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is a kind of psychotherapy technique. EMDR was created to deal with the distress caused by traumatic events and evoked negative memories. As it helps to relieve stress, EMDR is used to cope with the consequences of trauma and PTSD. The therapist that works with this technique directs the patient’s eye movements while he/she is recalling a traumatic experience. While a client is being exposed to distressing memories or thoughts in brief doses, certain eye movements help to encounter them less emotionally. A therapist can also use other external stimuli to direct lateral eye movements, including hand-tapping and some audio signals.

So, EMDR is believed to reduce physiological arousal and release deep emotional distress with the help of bilateral stimulation that is related to rapid eye movement (REM).

Shapiro assumed that EMDR is helpful because it promotes the creation of new associations between the traumatic memories and adaptive ones though the facilitated access to the traumatic memory network. Thus, new associations eliminate post-traumatic distress and develop cognitive insights by improving information processing and learning.  As a result the meaning of a hurtful trauma is transformed on an emotional level.

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What Are the 8 Phases of EMDR?

EMDR consists of eight treatment phases. 

Phase 1. A therapist enquires about the client’s previous life experience and traumatic events to develop a treatment plan. Together with a patient, they set goals of EMDR therapy. They may work on childhood memories as well as recent incidents.

Phase 2. EMDR therapist teaches a client some stress management techniques to deal with painful emotions and psychological tension. The ways of handling emotional distress may include breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, and so on. This phase makes the patient more informed and self-confident. 

Phase 3. During this phase, the therapist reveals the specific memories to target.

Phase 4-7. In these phases, EMDR therapy is aimed at focusing on distressing memories through vivid images related to the past events, negatives thoughts or beliefs, and emotions as well as body sensations related to a traumatic incident.  

While focusing on the things listed above, a therapist simultaneously asks a patient to do specific eye movements. Depending on a situation, bilateral stimulation may also include some other actions, like taps, together with eye movements. After that, a client must observe all the thoughts, feelings, and images that come into their mind. Such REM sets are repeated many times during the session to work on different distressing memories. Over some time, they become less intense and begin to fade. This is when the client is asked to focus on positive beliefs and images. 

Phase 8. In this phase, a therapist and client need to evaluate the progress they have achieved so far. EMDR therapy is considered to be successful if a client got an insight into their situation, felt emotional relief, and managed to change behavior patterns.

EMDR Protocol

EMDR therapy is used with a three-pronged protocol that includes:

1. Processing the past events that caused the dysfunction, forging new adaptive associative links;

2. Targeting current circumstances that evoke distress, desensitizing internal and external triggers; 

3. Incorporating imaginal templates of future events that assist in acquiring adaptive skills.

EMDR Protocol contains the following stages:

1) Client History

2) Preparation

3) Assessment

4) Reprocessing Sequence

5) Global Installation Phase

6) Body Scan

7) Closure

Self-EMDR. EMDR at Home

EMDR is a safe technique for people suffering from painful memories. Thus, self-EMDR is partially possible. An individual can somehow deal with anxiety and stress caused by traumatic memories. But it’s not achievable to experience all the benefits of EMDR on your own. There must be a therapist who helps to process distressing memories and resolve emotional issues caused by them. Professional support can help to make a process more in-depth than what you can get alone. Having a good guide who will assist through the treatment makes EMDR fully effective. 

EMDR Online

You can use an option to try EMDR therapy with a virtual therapist. It helps to address trauma-related issues ‘face-to-face’ with a therapist through a secure video connection. If you’ve decided to try EMDR remotely, you should take care of your environment during the session. 

Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed by anybody. Give a session your full attention in a calm space. Exclude any technical problems during the session to be completely engaged in the process. 

EMDR Training. EMDR Certification

The EMDR Institute founded by Dr. Francine Shapiro provides EMDR training programs that give an in-depth understanding of the technique. Their programs include lectures, demonstrations, and supervised practice in small groups. The EMDR Institute also offers workshops and distance learning opportunities.

Anton Kurapov

Anton Kurapov

PhD, a professor assistant at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Fascinated by the role of psychology in lives of people and simply astonished by the complexity of the brain and its functions.

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