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EMDR continues to grow in popularity because it can produce deep and lasting psychological healing for Complex Trauma C-PTSD & PTSD. I recommend EMDR for anyone who has pain from past experiences that they cannot seem to get over.

EMDR — Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a comprehensive relational psychotherapy that focuses on the transformational healing of complex trauma and other challenging cases. 

EMDR can be used for several mental disorders, and mental health issues like clinical depression, trauma, anxiety and addiction. During EMDR therapy sessions, you relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements. EMDR is thought to be effective because recalling distressing events is often less emotionally upsetting when your attention is diverted.

What Is Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing?


Assumptions of EMDR


The adaptive (or accelerated) information processing (AIP) model was developed to explain the results that EMDR achieves. EMDR and the AIP model assume that:

  • human beings are physiological processors of information;

  • information is stored in neurobiological memory networks (associative networks) containing memories, thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations;

  • under normal circumstances people are capable of responding to and resolving disturbances (analogous to how the body recovers from physical injury);

  • information is normally processed to an adaptive state whereby appropriate connections are made;

  • pathology arises when information associated with traumatic events in not adequately processed (memories are stored in a dysfunctional format);

  • most psychopathologies are based on early life experiences that result in a continued pattern of affect, behavior, cognitions, and subsequent identity structures;

  • EMDR therapy helps to stimulate information processing by forging new connections between dysfunctionally held information and more adaptive information;

  • eye movements or other bilateral stimulation help to stimulate adaptive information processing (EMDR appears to produce shifts in memories and the way that they are stored).


EMDR therapy combines different elements to maximize treatment effects.  The therapy involves attention to three time periods:  the past, present, and future.  Focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events.  Also, it is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions. 


With EMDR therapy, these items are addressed using an eight-phase treatment approach.

Phase 1:  The first phase is a history-taking session(s).  The therapist assesses the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan.  Client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing.  These include distressing memories and current situations that cause emotional distress.  Other targets may include related incidents in the past.  Emphasis is placed on the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations. Initial EMDR processing may be directed to childhood events rather than to adult-onset stressors or the identified critical incident if the client had a problematic childhood.  Clients generally gain insight into their situations, the emotional distress resolves and they start to change their behaviors.  The length of treatment depends upon the number of traumas and the age of PTSD onset.  Generally, those with single event adult onset trauma can be successfully treated in under 5 hours.  Multiple trauma victims may require a longer treatment time.

Phase 2:  During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress.  The therapist may teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques the client can use during and between sessions. A goal of EMDR therapy is to produce rapid and effective change while the client maintains equilibrium during and between sessions.

Phases 3-6:  In phases three to six, a target is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures.  These involve the client identifying three things:

1.  The vivid visual image related to the memory

2.  A negative belief about self

3.  Related emotions and body sensations.

In addition, the client identifies a positive belief.  The therapist helps the client rate the positive belief as well as the intensity of the negative emotions.  After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously engaging in EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation.  These sets may include eye movements, taps, or tones.  The type and length of these sets are different for each client.  At this point, the EMDR client is instructed to just notice whatever spontaneously happens.

After each set of stimulation, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind.  Depending upon the client’s report, the clinician will choose the next focus of attention.  These repeated sets with directed focused attention occur numerous times throughout the session.  If the client becomes distressed or has difficulty in progressing, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client get back on track.

When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, (s)he is asked to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session.  At this time, the client may adjust the positive belief if necessary and then focus on it during the next set of distressing events.

Phase 7:  In phase seven, closure, the therapist asks the client to keep a log during the week.  The log should document any related material that may arise.  It serves to remind the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.

Phase 8:  The next session begins with phase eight.  Phase eight consists of examining the progress made thus far.  The EMDR treatment processes all related historical events, current incidents that elicit distress, and future events that will require different responses

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