I’ve written plenty about EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). But this may be your first time encountering the concept. Even if you have heard of EMDR, it remains important to continue clarifying the specifics of this unique and effective form of psychotherapy.

Unlike classical therapy, talking is not the dominant component. Rather, EMDR’s secret weapon is a practice called bilateral stimulation.

The term refers to how your EMDR therapist will stimulate both sides of your brain by using hand and inner movements (and sometimes sounds). Doing so brings clients into a state that is compatible with processing negative memories. EMDR therapists are uniquely skilled at facilitating the resolution of such memories.

What Exactly Does an EMDR Therapist Do?

emdr technique

Obviously, EMDR and its eight phases comprise a unique approach to healing. So, let’s break down the basics into a few easily digestible bites:

Phases 1, 2, and 3

After a basic intake is performed and a medical history is taken, you and your therapist will set about choosing what to focus on. In general, this will be a negative memory, emotion, body sensation, or belief that relates to a distressing event in your past. Once that has been selected, you’ll collaborate on finding a positive image, feeling, or belief that will eventually replace the negative focus.

Phase 4

This is called the desensitization phase. What that refers to is how EMDR reduces the level of triggering caused by concentrating on something upsetting. Your therapist then performs the aforementioned hand movements directly in front of your face — instructing you to follow the movement with side-to-side eye movements. The therapist guides you to take note of what emotions and sensations arise during this process.

Note: The client has full power to stop and take a break if they feel it’s necessary.

Phase 5

As you see, Phase 4 desensitizes the triggering power of a past event. Phase 5 installs the positive image mentioned above to replace the negative memory. Installation continues until the client reports feeling that the positive belief is 100% true.

Phases 6 and 7

Your EMDR therapist asks you to complete a full-body scan to check for any lingering disturbances. If something like this is present, you return to phases 4 and 5. If not, you move forward to the closure of the final phase.

Phase 8

Here’s the catch: Phase 8 takes place in the next section. You and your therapist talk openly about how you feel and what else you want to focus on.

Some of What an EMDR Therapist Can Help You Discover

An EMDR therapist will do all the above, but in addition, they will help you integrate your sessions in your everyday life. Therefore, a major part of their work is to help you carry over the lessons and skills you learn in therapy. This effort involves reframing the events and perceptions that led you to EMDR in the first place. For example:

  • Your past does not define you: Accepting this reality creates space for many crucial shifts and changes in your life. You’re free to release the past and dwell in the present.
  • Acceptance: There are times when something negative happens to you, but it doesn’t automatically mean you are to blame.
  • Patience: The recovery process is not linear, and it’s okay to not always feel okay.

People opt to try therapy for many different and personal reasons. EMDR therapy is no different. After reading this post, you may wonder if an EMDR therapist can be the right catalyst and guide for you.

Deciding about this journey, like all journeys, begins with taking a single step. Therefore, I invite you to reach out and make contact. Let’s talk about your options!