Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is an 8-phase treatment model that is proven effective for the treatment of trauma and other conditions such as panic attacks, complicated grief, disturbing memories, performance anxiety, and stress reduction.

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tones, taps, or other creative methods) to activate the left and right sides of the brain.  It involves a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.

You can learn more about it HERE!


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8 Phases of Treatment

Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning

In the first phase of EMDR treatment, the therapist takes a thorough history of the client and develops a treatment plan that defines the specific target events for EMDR.

Phase 2: Preparation

Your clinician will teach you some specific techniques such as the container exercise and safe/calm place so you can rapidly deal with any emotional disturbance that may arise during desensitization (phase 4).

Phase 3: Assessment

This phase is used to access each target so it can be effectively processed (note: processing does not mean talking about it).

  • The client select a specific picture or “snapshot” from the target event (identified during Phase 1) that best represents the memory.
  • S/he then chooses a negative cognition associated with the event (i.e. “I am helpless” or “I am worthless.”)
  • The client then picks a positive cognition that s/he would rather believe (i.e. “I am worthwhile/ lovable/ a good person/ in control.”)
  • The therapist will ask the person how true their positive belief is using the Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale where “1” is “completely false,” and ” 7″ is “completely true.”
  • The client identifies their emotions (fear, anger) and physical sensations (tightness in the stomach, cold hands) associated with the target.
  • The client also rates the disturbance using the Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) scale, where 0= no disturbance and 10= the worst feeling you’ve ever had.

Phase 4: Desensitization

The therapist leads the client in sets of eye movement (or tones, taps, or other creative methods) to reprocess the distressing event until their SUD levels are reduced to zero (or 1 or 2 if this is more appropriate).

Phase 5: Installation

The positive belief (i.e. “I am worthwhile/ lovable/ a good person/ in control”) the client identified in phase 3 becomes the target of the bilateral stimulation.  How deeply the person believes their positive cognition is then measured using the VOC scale. The goal is for the person to fully believe this positive cognition at a level of 7 (completely true).

Phase 6: Body scan

An EMDR session is not considered successful until the client can bring up the original target without feeling any body tension.  Therefore, the therapist will ask if the client notices any residual tension in his/her body. If so, these physical sensations are then targeted for reprocessing.

Phase 7: Closure

Closure is done at the end of every treatment session, regardless of whether or not the memory is fully processed.  It’s important to reach stabilization before each EMDR sessions ends.

Phase 8: Reevaluation

At the beginning of subsequent sessions, the therapist checks to make sure that the positive results (low SUDs, high VOC, no body tension) have been maintained, identifies any new areas that need treatment, and continues to reprocess any additional targets.

* Information above adapted from https://emdria.site-ym.com/ 
* All information on this website is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute a legal contract between Liz Gray, LCSW, RPT and any person or entity unless otherwise specified. Correspondence does not constitute an established therapist-client relationship, psychological treatment, or diagnosis.