Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

Updated on May 24, 2022
Written by Alejandro Sandoval

Anyone who has dealt with trauma knows what a hold it can have over you and your life moving forward. Anxiety-induced isolation, flashbacks, and intense dreams can make it hard to get through a typical day. For some people who experience trauma, simply leaving home is a nearly insurmountable challenge.

Traditional therapy and medication are often used for post-traumatic stress, but there are other options. One of them is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). It was first developed in the 1980s by Dr. Francine Shapiro to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This therapy uses movements of the eyes (or rhythmic tapping) as a way to change memories stored in the brain so they can be properly processed. The therapy acts as a way to deal with painful memories and your natural functions to recover from trauma effects.

Who Benefits from EMDR Therapy

Most of the research about EMDR therapy is based on treating PTSD and trauma. However, it may also be used for the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief recovery
  • Pain management
  • Panic attacks
  • Performance anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Phobias
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Stress
  • Substance use disorder

EMDR focuses on memories that may cause sadness or issues with functioning. Memories can be so painful that you stay in the moment of trauma and cannot get out. Avoiding the thoughts seems like the only option. EMDR helps you break out of this state so you can process memories less painfully.

The Eight Phases of EMDR Therapy

EMDR is provided once or twice a week for six to 12 sessions in many cases. However, this may vary based on how well you respond to the therapy. EMDR has eight phases, which we’ll explain below.

1. Taking Your History

Your EMDR therapist in Pasadena, CA, will speak with you to help you determine a treatment plan and goals. You may need to share your history, what emotional triggers you have, which symptoms you experience, and what you seek from therapy.

In addition, the therapist might let you know about what other therapies may be useful for your situation.

2. Preparation

At this point, the therapist will talk more about therapy and how EMDR works. They will also answer all your inquiries.

Keep in mind that several sessions of EMDR may be needed to see progress. The therapist will help you create coping methods to manage emotions during and in sessions. This might include stress reduction techniques, such as resourcing techniques and breathing exercises.

3. Assessing the Chosen Memory

This phase focuses on evaluating and identifying the memory that is causing emotional distress. Body sensation, affect, cognition, and imagery related to this memory are assessed using diagnostic scales. This is the starting point to track how you progress through EMDR treatment.

4 – 7. Treatment (Desensitization, Reaction, Installation, and Closure)

During phase four, the desensitization process begins. Throughout the process, you’ll be told to recall certain sections of a memory. While you do this, the therapist will lead you in performing certain eye movements.

After you recall the feeling or memory, you might be asked about your reactions, feelings, and thoughts while the memory is present.

Keeping track of the responses helps track progress through EMDR therapy. The idea is to create better emotional responses and more positive beliefs through each session.

Throughout the process, your therapist will be there to help. If you’re in distress, they can assist you with working through emotions and coming back to the present.

Once the session is over, your therapist will determine whether the memory was fully reproduced through your responses. If not, a stress reduction exercise or resource will be used to make sure you feel better before the session ends.

Coping strategies will also be gone over to ensure you can manage emotions and stay safe until the next session. Keep in mind that not all memories can be processed in only one session.

8. Reevaluation

The last part of the therapy involves you and your therapist evaluating memories to target in the future, memories already uncovered, and how effective treatments are.

After the memories have all been targeted, the therapist will complete a special template. Bilateral stimulation will be used again as you go through an imagined scenario while handling previously triggering material.

EMDR Therapy in Pasadena, CA

At Sandoval Therapy, Alejandro Sandoval offers EMDR therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and other appropriate conditions. He specializes in working with men, especially those who struggle with connection, emotional intimacy, and relationships.

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