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  • Writer's picturedrclarealb

What is EMDR Therapy?

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

I have been providing EMDR therapy for more than ten years. I have so much appreciation for the developers of this therapy. They have invented a technique that has helped so many people.

EMDR Therapy For Trauma

Traumatic events can stay with the brain and disrupt how it processes information. Anything associated with the event, be it sound, smell, or image, can cause distress for the sufferer.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, EMDR for short, is an effective form of psychotherapy that changes the way the brain processes distressing material.

Although some studies suggest that EMDR treatment works for depression and anxiety, it works wonders for those who have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or suffer from a traumatic event.

EMDR therapy differs from other forms of psychotherapy as it incorporates other forms of therapy in its treatment. These different elements allow a highly effective treatment happen.

There are eight different phases for this treatment. All of which work together in change the way the brain presents disturbing memories by stimulating the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle. Studies suggest that remembering traumatic events have a similar brain response as the REM cycle.

These phases are broken down into three categories: pretreatment (phases 1-2), treatment (phases 3-7), and post treatment (stage 8).

Phase 1 is learning a patient’s history which helps the therapist plan the treatment. Learning a patient’s history is the stepping stone in treatment as it gives a therapist a starting point.

In phase 2, patients will learn coping techniques for emotional distress. This phase is extremely important for all patients as EMDR therapy will trigger distressing memories. The techniques learned in this phase is useful for patients during and outside of each session.

Phase 3 is the start of the treatment program. This phase is an assessment in that you and your therapist will help identify and target specific memories and everything associated with it. This includes any related emotions, body sensations, or any other negative belief from the memory.

This phase sets the stage for the rest of the treatment.

In phases 4-6 , the EMDR treatment happens. Continuing from phase 3, the therapist will use EMDR techniques to target and treat the memories recounted from the previous phase.

EMDR treatment involves bilateral stimulation which may simulate the REM cycle although studies are still unclear on why or how this happens.

Examples of bilateral stimulation may include eye movements or eye taps. During each session, a direct focus is repeated until the brain starts to process each memory in a more positive way.

After the set, the therapist asks the patient to think back to the target of each session to see if there is any remaining distress in the body. If during the session you are distress or have difficulty progressing, your therapist brings you back on track by using the techniques taught in phase 2.

Some have referred to the three phases separately as desensitization (phase 4), installation (phase 5), and body scan (phase 6).

Phase 7 is the last phase of the treatment itself. This phase deals with closure. In this phase, the therapist asks the patient to document their progress outside the sessions in a journal. This a way for the patient to record any triggering event associated with their trauma and what techniques they used outside of their sessions.

The final stage of EMDR treatment, phase 8, is an evaluation. It is a way for the therapist to check on positive results along with seeing if there are any new to targets to treat and if more work done with any current targets.

While EMDR therapy is known for being fast, it does not necessarily mean that everyone will have quick results as people are different. But this treatment has helped millions who have used it.

Call Dr. Clare Albright, Psy.D. Psychologist License CA PSY11660 at 949-454-0996 at

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