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EMDR is made up of 8 phases, which focus on past memories, present disturbances, and future actions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process the traumatic experiences and neutralize them so that these experiences are stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from the traumatic experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.


The 8 phases of EMDR include:

  1. History and Treatment Planning - Generally takes 1-2 sessions at the beginning of therapy, and can continue throughout the therapy, especially if new problems are revealed. In this phase of EMDR treatment, I gather a thorough history and develop a treatment plan with you. This phase will include a discussion of the specific problems that have brought you into therapy, behaviors stemming from that problem, and current symptoms. With this information, I will develop a treatment plan that defines the specific targets on which to use EMDR.

  2. Preparation - For most clients this will take only 1-4 sessions. For others, with a complex trauma background, or with certain diagnoses, a longer time may be necessary. In this phase I will teach you some specific techniques so you can rapidly deal with any emotional disturbance that may arise. If you can do that, you are generally able to proceed to the next phase. I will teach you a variety of relaxation techniques for calming yourself in the face of any emotional disturbance that may arise during or after a session. A goal of this phase is to teach you how to take care of yourself, both during and outside of EMDR sessions.

  3. Assessment – This phase is used to assess each identified traumatic memory/experience in a controlled and standardized way so it can be effectively processed. This phase includes identifying the images or sensations that arise from the traumatic memory, along with any negative beliefs associated with it. I will monitor distress level throughout the session by having you rate your distress on a scale from 0-10.

  4. Desensitization - During this phase, I lead you in sets of bilateral stimulation via eye movement or tones until your distress levels are reduced to zero (or 1 or 2 if this is more appropriate).

  5. Installation - The goal is to concentrate on and increase the strength of the positive belief that you have identified to replace your original negative belief associated with the traumatic memory.

  6. Body Scan - After the positive cognition has been strengthened and installed, I will ask you to bring the original target event to mind and see if any residual tension remains in your body. If so, these physical sensations are then targeted for reprocessing.

  7. Closure – This phase ends every treatment session. Closure ensures that you leave at the end of each session feeling better than at the beginning. If the processing of the traumatic target event is not complete in a single session, I will assist you in using a variety of self-calming techniques in order to regain a sense of equilibrium.

  8. Re-evaluation – This phase opens every subsequent session. I check to make sure that the positive results have been maintained, identify any new areas that need treatment, and continue reprocessing the additional targets.


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