Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an interactive psychotherapy technique used to relieve psychological stress. It is an effective treatment for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During EMDR therapy sessions, you relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements.
Phase 1: History and treatment planning
Your therapist will first review your history and decide where you are in the treatment process. This evaluation phase also includes talking about your trauma and identifying potential traumatic memories to treat specifically.
Phase 2: Preparation
Your therapist will then help you learn several different ways to cope with the emotional or psychological stress you’re experiencing.
Stress management techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness may be used.
Phase 3: Assessment
During the third phase of EMDR treatment, your therapist will identify the specific memories that will be targeted and all the associated components (such as the physical sensations that are stimulated when you concentrate on an event) for each target memory.
Phases 4-7: Treatment
Your therapist will then begin using EMDR therapy techniques to treat your targeted memories. During these sessions, you will be asked to focus on a negative thought, memory, or image.
Your therapist will simultaneously have you do specific eye movements. The bilateral stimulation may also include taps or other movements mixed in, depending on your case.
After the bilateral stimulation, your therapist will ask you to let your mind go blank and notice the thoughts and feelings you’re having spontaneously. After you identify these thoughts, your therapist may have you refocus on that traumatic memory, or move on to another.
If you become distressed, your therapist will help bring you back to the present before moving on to another traumatic memory. Over time, the distress over particular thoughts, images, or memories should start to fade.
Phase 8: Evaluation
In the final phase, you’ll be asked to evaluate your progress after these sessions. Your therapist will do the same.