The 8 Phases of EMDR: A Step-By-Step Guide to Overcoming Trauma
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people heal from trauma. It is an effective treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
EMDR was first developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro. The therapy uses bilateral stimulation, stimulating both sides of the brain through eye movements, taps, or tones.
EMDR therapy occurs in eight phases. The phases intend to identify the trigger of the negative memory (phase 1), process and desensitize the trauma (phases 2-7), and install positive beliefs about oneself (phase 8). The outcome of this therapy is that the negative emotions and memories are no longer as distressing, and the person can better cope with them.
Each EMDR therapy session will include all eight phases, all of which will vary in length depending on each patient. The therapist will work with the client to identify which phase they are in and tailor the therapy to meet the needs of that phase.
Phase 1: History And Treatment Planning
The first phase of EMDR therapy is to develop a relationship with the client and understand their history and background. This is similar to many other types of therapy and helps establish trust and rapport. The therapist will also develop a treatment plan with the client during this phase. This may involve discussing the client’s goals for therapy and what they hope to achieve.
Identifying past traumatic events and any current triggers or situations that cause distress is also essential. The therapist will ask about thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with these events and triggers, which will help guide the EMDR therapy treatment.
Phase 2: Preparation
The preparation phase is about ensuring the client knows what to expect and the primary objectives of the therapy. The client will learn how EMDR therapy works, what they need to do during treatment, and what reactions they may experience.
This phase also includes education on relaxation techniques and stress management skills. These skills will be used during treatment and can help the client cope with difficult memories and emotions.
Often a “safe space” will be identified so that if the client feels overwhelmed during treatment, they can take a break and return to the memory later. This could be as simple as taking deep breaths or focusing on a happy memory.
Phase 3: Assessment
Phase three is the assessment phase. The assessment phase targets specific memories or experiences that the treatment aims to fix. The therapist will ask the client to identify their current level of distress for each memory and any associated negative beliefs or thoughts.
The objective is reprocessing the event and identifying thoughts, emotions, and triggers.
Once the assessment is complete, the following three phases, known as the “reprocessing” phases, will begin. These phases involve the actual eye movement part of the EMDR therapy and will all involve bilateral stimulation (BLS).
If you are ready to begin planning your EMDR therapy session, contact Zinnia Health today. Our team can schedule a consultation to help you get started.
Phase 4: Desensitization
The fourth phase is where desensitization occurs. This is the process of helping the client feel less distress when thinking about the target memory.
Techniques are used to lower the subjective units of disturbance (SUD) to zero. Some techniques include:
- Have the client move their eyes back and forth following the therapist’s hand movements.
- Using auditory or tactile bilateral stimulation (BLS). This involves using sounds or tapping on the client’s hands while they focus on the target memory.
Phase 5: Installation
Once the desensitization therapy session is complete, the client will likely feel more positive about the memory. However, it is during the installation phase that these positive emotions and thoughts are “installed.”
This is done by having the client focus on the positive belief or thought while continuing with bilateral stimulation. The therapist may also ask the client to imagine themselves in the future after processing the memory and how they will feel. The primary objective is to create positive cognitions and associations with the memory.
Phase 6: Body Scan
The sixth phase is known as the body scan. This involves having the client pay attention to any body sensations they feel. The EMDR therapist may ask the client to focus on different parts of their body, one at a time.
If there are any lingering negative emotions or thoughts, the therapist will ask the client to focus on those sensations while continuing with bilateral stimulation. The goal is to help the client become more aware of their body and any emotions or thoughts affecting them.
Phase 7: Closure
The seventh phase is known as closure. Closure takes place at the end of each reprocessing session and is intended to return the client to a state of feeling calm and relaxed.
Three areas identify the completion of closure:
- The client feels neutral about the event (SUD=0)
- The positive beliefs feel completely true (VOC=7)
- There is no longer disturbance in the body
Phase 8: Reevaluation
After step 7 is complete, the therapist will reevaluate the client’s current level of distress for memory (SUD). If the client reports a reduction in distress, they will move on to the next target memory. If not, you may need additional sessions.
The reevaluation stage is the starting point for each new session, which will help identify future goals and objectives for treatment.
Use the 8 Steps of EMDR Therapy to Overcome Trauma Today
EMDR is a type of therapy that can be used to help people process and heal from traumatic memories. The treatment consists of eight phases: assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to identify and process negative thoughts and emotions associated with a traumatic memory, ultimately leading to a reduction in distress.
If you know someone who is having a challenging time overcoming a traumatic experience, encourage them to seek out EMDR therapy. It may just be the help they need to start feeling better.
At Zinnia Health, our team of experienced mental health professionals can provide EMDR therapy to help you heal from your trauma and other mental health disorders. You can reach out to us through our website or by calling our office at (855) 430-9439.