Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

By Gina Cipriano


According to the EMDR Institute Inc., Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed in the 1990s and has surged in popularity due to its effectiveness in the treatment of trauma. EMDR has shown to be especially beneficial for people with diagnosis such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Compared to Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR can heal symptoms of PTSD with less sessions, which makes it a more cost-effective treatment (De Jongh et al., 2019).  Additionally, it has been shown to help in the treatment of anxiety, depression, phobias, and grief (EMDR Institute Inc. n.d.).


What EMDR Sessions Look Like


While Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing can sound like an intimidating name, a therapist can assist you in determining if this is the most beneficial intervention for you! In general, EMDR includes eight phases.


In the first phase, the therapist will take time to understand you, your needs, and your unique history (Hase, 2021).  It also serves as a point for you and your therapist to develop a relationship based on trust. Ultimately, this session focuses on what traumas can be addressed within the EMDR sessions. In the second phase of treatment, your therapist will assist you in understanding what EMDR is and discuss any concerns you may have about the course treatment (Hase, 2021). Additionally, this session helps ensure your protection through the discussion of a “stop signal” that can be used in the case that memories become too distressing to recall (Hase, 2021, p.3). Further, the therapist and you can discuss coping mechanisms that you can use while addressing emotionally difficult life events.


Then in phases three to six, you and your therapist will evaluate a negative thought you have concerning the traumatic memory and discuss how to reframe that memory to something more positive (Hase, 2021). Then, the therapist and you will begin to reprocess the memory using bilateral stimulation (Hase, 2021). This entails moving the eyes horizontally from left to right, hearing beeps in the left and right ear, or holding objects that vibrate in the left and right hand.  During bilateral stimulation, you will be asked to recall the traumatic event, your feelings associated with the event, and the sensations that occur in your body. Throughout this process, your therapist will continually assess your distress level until the memory can be recalled with a reduction in your level of distress (Hase, 2021). Finally, you will be asked to recall the positive thought you discussed earlier while bilateral stimulation is employed again (Hase, 2021). The goal is to have that positive thought feel true to you (Hase, 2021). Finally, during phase seven and eight you journal about your experiences during day-to-day life, discuss them with your therapist, and determine together if more events need to be processed (Hase, 2021).



De Jongh, A., Amann, B. L., Hofmann, A., Farrell, D., & Lee, C. W. (2019). The status of EMDR therapy in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder 30 years after its introduction. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(4), 261-269. https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-3196.13.4.261


EMDR Institute, Inc. (n.d.). Welcome to EMDR. https://www.emdr.com/


Hase, M. (2021). The structure of EMDR therapy: A guide for the therapist. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.660753


Call us for EMDR therapy for trauma and PTSD in Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens.

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