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The Phases of EMDR: What to Expect

close up of a person's eye under a blue sky

If you’re suffering from anxiety, panic disorders, or PTSD, you may have heard of EMDR as a possible solution. EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement and Desensitization Training, helps to unblock painful memories that may trigger mental health issues. This can result in incredible healing benefits.

During a session, an EMDR-trained clinician will ask a client to think of a particular triggering memory and then guide the client through eye movements by tracking the clinician’s hand as it moves. That is a simplification of a very powerful healing technique, so let’s take a look at the 8 phases of EMDR, according to the EMDR Institute, Inc.

Phase 1  The clinician will take the client’s history and learn what the client hopes to gain from the sessions in the future. This is the planning portion of the process.

Phase 2 In this phase, the clinician teaches the client a variety of different ways to handle emotional distress that arises in different circumstances. Clients can then use these techniques during and in between sessions.

Phases 3-6  The client and clinician select a “target” or trauma to unwind, then focus EMDR techniques on that target. As part of the process, the client will visualize the image associated with a memory or fear, then identify a negative perception about themselves that they’ve been clinging to. Then, the clinician helps the client take stock of different emotions and sensations. Throughout, the clinician encourages the client to keep a positive belief that can replace the negative emotions, sensations, and beliefs they might hold.

Phase 7 In this phase, also called closure, the therapist may ask the client to keep a journal of any feelings that may arise as a result of the sessions.

Phase 8 Together, the client and clinician will look at what’s been achieved so far. They’ll also talk about past, present, and future events that may bring up issues—and discuss how to work through those events when they arise. If you’re interested in talking to a clinician to see if EMDR would work for you, don’t hesitate. Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation and make a lasting connection.