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Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing EMDR

The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) approach helps you process and recover from past experiences that are negatively affecting your mental health.

What is EMDR?

Combining side-to-side eye movements with talk therapy in a structured format, EMDR aids in processing and addressing negative images, emotions, beliefs, and body sensations related to traumatic memories that may feel stuck. These unresolved issues can contribute to various mental health problems. Through EMDR, you can gain a fresh perspective and find relief from the symptoms you have been experiencing. Therapist David Martin, one of our members and an EMDR consultant, explains that many individuals experience a significant shift from constantly being affected by a traumatic memory to feeling like it no longer holds power over them. EMDR jumpstarts your natural healing process after trauma as your therapist supports you through the journey towards inner healing.

What can EMDR help with?

As a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), EMDR was developed and is widely recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It can be used to treat anxiety, depression, addictions, behavioural problems, relationship problems, and even more serious mental illnesses such as psychosis and personality disorders.

What is the treatment for EMDR?

EMDR therapy combines different elements to maximize treatment effects. A full description of the theory, sequence of treatment, and research on protocols and active mechanisms can be found in F. Shapiro (2001) Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (2nd edition) New York: Guilford Press.

EMDR 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.

EMDR Eight-phase treatment approach

  • Client History & Treatment Planning

    Phase 1

    Client history and treatment planning are the first phases of EMDR. By obtaining a detailed history, a clinician can determine a client's readiness for treatment and identify any secondary gains that maintain the current problem. Using dysfunctional behaviors, symptoms, and specific characteristics, the clinician determines a target for treatment. For sequential processing, the targets focused on as the basis for the client's pathology are prioritized.

  • Preparation

    Phase 2

    During the second phase, also known as preparation, the therapist and client establish a therapeutic relationship. The therapist assists in setting realistic expectations and teaches the client self-control techniques to manage gaps in sessions and maintain stability between and during them. Additionally, the therapist encourages the use of metaphors and stop signals to give the client a sense of control during treatment sessions. As part of this phase, the therapist also educates the client on their symptoms and helps them understand the active processing of their trauma.
  • Assessment

    Phase 3

    Assessment is the third phase in which the client and the therapist jointly identify the target memory for the particular session. The patient is then instructed to recognize the most salient image associated with this memory and he/she will be helped to elicit negative beliefs associated with it which provide an insight about the irrationality of the particular event. Positive beliefs suited to the target are also introduced which contradict with his/her emotional experiences.

  • Desensitization

    Phase 4

    The client's disturbing event is examined during the fourth desensitisation phase to change the associated sensory experiences. This phase also involves increasing the client's self-efficacy and fostering insight. The client is instructed to simultaneously focus on the target image and eye movements while remaining open to whatever arises. After each set of eye movements, they are prompted to take a deep breath and clear their mind of any material they focus on. Based on the client's response, the clinician will direct their further attention and adjust the length, speed and type of stimulation used.
  • Desensitization

    Phase 5

    As part of the fifth installation phase, the therapist attempts to replace negative cognition with positive cognition. The most enhancing positive cognition during bilateral stimulation will be paired with previously dysfunctional material until the VOC reaches seven or ecological validity.
  • Body Scan

    Phase 6

    A sixth phase involves scanning the client's body to determine whether residual tension related to the targeted event remains as a bodily response. If this sensation exists, the therapist will process it further.
  • Closure

    Phase 7

    In the seventh phase, closure is when self-control techniques, which have already been taught, are used when reprocessing isn't complete. This helps restore equilibrium. During this phase, the therapist explains what to expect between sessions and maintains a record of disturbances between sessions so that these targets can be used in future sessions.

  • Re-evaluation

    Phase 8

    In the context of EMDR therapy, reevaluation assumes a crucial role as the eighth phase in the treatment process. This pivotal stage entails a comprehensive review aimed at achieving optimal treatment effects while ensuring that all additional targets are thoroughly examined. With meticulous attention to detail, therapists meticulously assess and reassess their clients' progress, tracking changes in symptoms, emotions, and overall well-being throughout each session. By consistently evaluating the efficacy of interventions employed thus far, practitioners can tailor subsequent sessions to address any remaining distressing memories or negative beliefs that may hinder further therapeutic progress. Through this rigorous assessment process within EMDR therapy's reevaluation phase, professionals maintain an unwavering commitment to delivering effective treatments tailored to meet individual needs while fostering tangible healing outcomes for those seeking relief from traumatic experiences.

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Finding Professional Help

If you're experiencing difficulties with your mental well-being, which are impacting your daily life and relationships, seeking professional help is a wise decision.

There are several options available to address your specific concerns and receive the support you need:

Schedule a discussion with your primary care physician to discuss your situation and obtain referrals to specialized resources for gender identity or mental health.

Consider seeking therapy from a qualified provider such as Calm Waters Counseling.

Inquire with your employer about any potential support programs like mentoring or peer support groups.

Reach out to local LGBTIQA+ organizations, which may offer support through group sessions, drop-ins, or mentorship programs.

Most Popular Questions

Questions that clients ask us frequently

In EMDR, people move past trauma, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. You may not benefit from EMDR if you have a condition you were born with or were passed down from your family or if you have complications from a brain injury.

In these counseling sessions, the client and therapist work through specific memories, negative beliefs, and emotional focuses while engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements and repeated gentle tapping.

EMDR therapy sessions can be emotionally draining, resulting in some individuals feeling physically exhausted afterward.

One study found that 84-90% of single event trauma victims no longer had PTSD symptoms after three ninety minute EMDR sessions. Another study showed a 100% success rate.