the 8 phases of emdr therapy

Understanding the 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

If you or someone you love has suffered from past traumas EMDR can be extremely useful. During the eight phases, your mind is reprogrammed with the way you process past experiences and traumatic events. You will be able to have a better outlook on life and fewer triggers.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment made up of eight phases which all come together to help your brain view past traumas differently. It helps to reduce the effect of past triggers and allows people to live a better and much more positive life.

EMDR is a cost-efficient and time-saving form of therapy. Some people spend years in therapy when you could try EMDR to help to recover from past traumas. The eight simple phases have truly helped many people live a better life. Read on to find out everything there is to know about the eight phases of EMDR and what to expect during different phases.

Article Topics

What Are The 8 phases of EMDR Therapy?

There are eight phases to EMDR therapy. Each of these phases is very important for those that are struggling mentally with past experiences or traumas. It is extremely beneficial to many people around the world and is becoming much more popular. The eight phases of EMDR are:

  • Client history
  • Preparation
  • Assessment
  • Desensitization
  • Installation
  • Body Scan
  • Closure
  • Re-evaluation

These eight phrases work well to help those that are suffering have a more pain-free day-to-day life. It will pinpoint different traumas and target those to make your brain feel differently about them. One of the hardest phases for some is the assessment phase.

What Is the Assessment Phase of EMDR?

The assessment phase is when specific memories or traumas are targeted in therapy. The therapist will ask questions to try and get the full picture of what happened to better help the client. There will be a good bit of talking during this phase of some painful memories. It can be very unsettling for some, but it is all a part of the process.

Understanding the 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

While it may feel hard at the time EMDR therapy does work very well. It can feel awful to bring up those memories but after pinpointing which memories are causing your issue this is how they will retrain your brain to think most positive thoughts when it comes to certain situations. Now let’s look at each phase and what will happen during them.

Assessing Client History

At this time the therapist will sit down and talk with the with. You will go over your history and gather a full detailed history. The report can even go back to your childhood and range from a large number of issues that may have happened. No issue is too small, if it is affecting your life, it is a big issue to you.

Some people have a past of abuse, rejection, or negotiate life experience. Many issues can bring someone to try EMDR from needing help with public speaking due to an experience of being afraid to drive from a near-death experience.

The main point of the assessment is to figure out the underlying issues you may have and gather this information. You won’t love the assessment but let yourself open up and pour all of your issues out at this moment. One great thing is you do not necessarily need to go into detail about the events but instead just talk about the issues that happened such as “I was abused” or “I was humiliated”.

Preparing the Client for Therapy

This phase is very important as the therapist needs to fully prepare you on what to expect. In this phase, the therapist will try to have you relax and be open to the process. It will not be a great experience but keeping your eye on the outcome is very beneficial. A little pain for a much better future.

The therapist will work with you so you are not surprised by anything that may happen during the process. You do need to keep a very open mind so it will work, some people do not have success the first time around. Do not feel discouraged and take each phase one step at a time.

Assessment of the Target Memories or Feelings

As mentioned above the assessment is where you sit and talk with the therapist and pinpoint what exact issue is causing you so much pain. By now they have already gathered your history and started to prepare you for the next step of the process.

By opening yourself up and telling them exactly what issues you may have from the past you are giving them the right tools to help you. Humans can have a negative experience and for the rest of their life have triggers related to that experience. Let them know your triggers and everything else.

This is also when your therapist will have you scale different memories from one to ten. After giving the level of how upsetting the memory is you will tell them what your feelings are towards the memory. This statement will be very useful as they will use it to change the way your brain thinks about the issue. They may also at this time start to help you with terms to replace those thoughts or beliefs.

Desensitization Process

This can be a hard part for some, and this is when the process truly starts. The therapist uses Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) to stimulate your brain and mind to help process the trauma that you have endured. This also will tap into your conscious mind to stimulate it.

They may also work with:

  • Taps on skin
  • Eye movements
  • Dual attention

All of these can happen why the therapist has you think about the pain from your past. They will focus on you until you reach a calm state. After this happens it will allow for new positive thoughts, images, and feelings may start to emerge and give you a new way of thinking. This is to help desensitize you from the issues you are having.

There will be hand movements moving back and forth as they instruct you to think deeply about the thoughts that you are having issues with. Different simple stimulants while thinking of those thoughts can help to make your brain slowly change the way it thinks. It might not happen the first time so do not get discouraged and relax.

Do not be surprised if new or unexpected memories come up during this part of the phase.  The BLS helps to put a blur over the negative memories, so they are not standing out as much in your mind. The pain will be lower, and you will not think about them as much.

Installing Positive Beliefs to Replace Negative Ones

After all of the phases above have been completed then comes the part where the therapist will install positive beliefs in you. They will help to remove the negative thinking and replace it with positive thinking. This process has helped so many people be able to function better in life as they are not being weighed down any longer.

The tragic or unhappy memories from your past will no longer be associated with bad things. You will be able to drive that car or stand on that stage with confidence again. You will have faith in yourself as a person and know that you can do what you set out to do.

Body Scan to Eliminate Any Remaining Physiological Symptoms

In this part of the phase, you will be asked to scan your body for any physiological symptoms. Muscle memory and different parts of the body can also be a trigger got bad memories. Some people have experienced numbness and heat rushes as their subconscious mind is still dealing with triggers.

The therapist will then start to check each part of the body to ensure that no trauma is left behind in the body to come back out later as the symptoms mentioned above. No symptom is too small to mention to the therapist.

Closure as the Session Ends

This is also a very important step, so you need the session to end on a positive note. Every person deals with trauma differently, and this is why every person will take a different amount of time to heal. Even with EMDR, some people may not feel the effects right away.

If the trauma was for a long period or very traumatic it can take longer for those to process what is going on and attempt to move past the issues to see them more positively. There are different methods the therapist can use to help promote calmness and help you relax. 

Re-evaluation of the Clients Memories

Most therapists want to see you make sure things are still going well. This can help them to determine if bigger issues are going on or if you are doing well in life now. If your memory has been properly taken care of it should not come back negatively, this is why is important to choose the right emdr therapist.

It is important to note that memory will always exist but how you feel about will change. This is not to say you will be happy about the past experiences just not hurt by them anymore.

How Many Sessions of EMDR Are Needed?

When it comes to how many sessions of EMDR are needed the answer is different for everyone. Some people can overcome their past quicker than other people. This does not mean that the traumas are not as significant as the others. Some people were able to process things quicker well some may take a second session.

once be thoughts about that traumatic event or turn positive if a different issue comes up you may need to have more sessions. Typically, people only need one session of EMDR to come to terms with what happened in the past and have their brains start to view things in a positive light.

What Happens After an EMDR Session?

After your EMDR session, you live life normally. You should not have those haunting memories overtaking your daily life anymore. You will still think of them, but you will no longer have those feelings of doubt or insecurities weighing on your mind. You will think positively and be more confident in life.

The 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy Sessions

One negative experience can change someone’s whole life for the worse, with EMDR you can change that horrific memory into something more positive. While the memory will still be there you will not have such strong negative thoughts about the situation. You will have a new outlook on life and be a much happier day today as there will be fewer triggers for you.