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The Eight Phases of EMDR

The Eight Phases of EMDR – EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.” EMDR is very effective if you are struggling with trauma, abuse, bullying, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, witnessed or experienced something traumatic such as a car accident or violent crime or the sudden loss of a loved one.

When a person experiences something traumatic, often they may feel overwhelmed. When our brain’s are overwhelmed by our circumstances they don’t fully process what is going on. This can mean that the memory of an event may get “stuck” in a person’s mind this memory can stay very vivid and intense. The person feels like they are reliving the experience and the distress they felt at the time, over and over again. It’s like a person has become stuck reading the same page in book over and over and they aren’t able to turn the page.

EMDR helps the person to turn the page, unstick the memory and reprocess what happened so it isn’t as intense. It also helps the person to reduce the emotional impact of the memory, so that when they do think about it the feelings are not as intense and strong.

You can find a video on EMDR here that you might find useful – Introduction to EMDR Therapy

You can also read more about EMDR and how it works in another Blog I have written EMDR – Effective Trauma Based Therapy

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This blog will look at the eight phases of EMDR that you will go through with a therapist so that you have a good understanding of what to expect in sessions.

The following two websites have been used to compile the information below and also provide more in-depth information for you to read

What are the 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

Experiencing EMDR Therapy

  • Phase 1 – History Taking & Treatment Plan
  • Phase 2 – Preparation
  • Phase 3 – Assessment
  • Phase 4 – Desensitisation
  • Phase 5 – Installation
  • Phase 6 – Body Scan
  • Phase 7 – Closure
  • Phase 8 – Reevaluation

Phase 1 – History Taking & Treatment Plan – Your therapist will ask you about your medical history and the trauma you have experienced and what triggers you might have. Your therapist will then talk to you about what your goals for therapy are, and what changes you would like to make.

Phase 2 – Preparation Your therapist will give you an overview of the treatment plan and explain what they think might be causing your difficulties. They will then start to teach you some ways of dealing with your trauma, for instance they may teach you some deep breathing techniques and some relaxation exercises, this is to help keep you calm and manage any anxiety.

Phase 3 – Assessment You and your therapist will identify the target memory that triggers your emotional response.

  • What caused the trauma?
  • What is the most consistent image associated with the memory?
  • How is the traumatic incident relevant to the present?

At this point a positive belief can be introduced to help deal with negative emotions triggered by the trauma – for instance “you are safe now”

Phase 4 – Desensitisation – at this point the disturbing event is evaluated rationally.

You will be asked to focus on an image that evokes a negative reaction while simultaneously making eye movements using bilateral stimulation. The bilateral stimulation is done in a series of sets that last around 25 seconds each. After each set of eye movements, you will be instructed to take a deep breath and asked to provide feedback on your experience during the preceding set. 

Phase 5 – Installation – Your therapist will talk to you about “installing”  “a positive belief deeply into your thought process, meaning they will help you strengthen the positive belief so that it replaces the negative one. For example, if you were physically assaulted as a child, you will be helped to realize that as an adult you are capable of resisting assault.” 

This will be repeated until you experience more positive feelings.

Phase 6 – Body scan –  After the installation phase your therapist will ask you to go back to the traumatic even and reevaluate it. This will allow your therapist to see if there is any trauma left, whether the traumatic memory still causes a physical reaction, such as an increase in heart rate. If you are still experiencing any reaction your therapist will continue with the EMDR.

Phase 7 – Closure – Your therapist will ask you to maintain a record of disturbances between sessions and talk to you about how you can manage them. They will talk about stress reduction techniques.

Phase 8 – Reevaluation – Your therapist will evaluate how the treatment has gone and whether further sessions are needed.

Paul Carter is and Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing practitioner as well as a counsellor, psychotherapist. If you are looking for EMDR support, call Paul Carter now to book an appointment or to discuss your issues further. At the moment, Paul is only working online or the telephone due to COVID. To make an appointment please call Paul on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave him a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.

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