The 8 Phases of EMDR

The 8 Phases of EMDR

A non-drug therapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) helps you recover from memories and fears that make your day-to-day life stressful. EMDR lets you process traumatic memories and events (i.e., the past), desensitizes you to current triggers (i.e., the present), and gives you the skills you need to move forward with ease (i.e., the future).

Your counselor may recommend EMDR to help you recover from:

Our expert counselors at The Soho Center for Mental Health in Greenwich Village use EMDR to treat anxiety, PTSD, and other trauma. EMDR works more rapidly than conventional therapy alone and consists of eight different phases that help you move from distress to comfort. 

You may be able to move through all phases in a single treatment. However, if you have several traumatic memories that need to be addressed or if your trauma is severe, you may benefit from multiple sessions.

Phase I — history and planning

During the first phase, we meet with you and take a history that may reach back as far as your childhood. The main point in this first phase is to identify any and all traumatic events that are currently giving you distress — either consciously or unconsciously. We then develop a treatment plan for you.

Phase II - preparation

In Phase II, we prepare you for the treatment by teaching you techniques to access and process traumatic memories. One of the techniques consists of moving your eyes from side to side as you remember past trauma. 

The reason lateral eye movements help you process trauma is that when you’re relaxed and walk through a new environment, your eyes naturally move from side to side. In contrast, if you’re fearful or startled, you tend to freeze and focus on the threat. 

By pairing a traumatic (i.e., potentially life-threatening) memory with this physically soothing eye movement, you start to develop a different relationship to the memory. We may also teach you other calming techniques, such as tapping various parts of your face or body with your fingertips.

Phase III — assessment

In the third phase, we evaluate your response to traumatic memories before, during, and after EMDR. We use two different measurements to evaluate your progress: the Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) scale and the Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale. 

Phase IV — desensitization

In this phase, you focus on a particular traumatic memory while performing the eye movements, tapping, or other physical task. You then learn how to process that memory so that it isn’t so disturbing and threatening.

You also report to your counselor any thoughts or feelings you may have during this process. Sometimes these thoughts and feelings lead to further targets that need to be addressed to give you full relief.

Phase V — installation

During this phase, we help you strengthen the positive associations you’ve now developed to your formerly traumatic and triggering memory.

Phase VI — body scan

As you recount the traumatic memory and your new positive associations with that experience, you pay attention to how your body feels. For instance, even if you’re mentally feeling calmer, you may notice that you tense your shoulders or clench your jaw, which is an indication of stress. We then help you alleviate that stress.

Phase VII — closure

During the closure part of the session, we evaluate whether or not the targeted memory was fully processed and integrated. If so, we may move on to another memory or trigger in the next session. 

If you don’t experience full relief by the close of your session, we give you instructions and techniques that can help keep you calm until your next EMDR session. We use EMDR until you’ve fully processed your trauma and left it in the past, where it belongs.

Phase VIII — re-evaluation

When you come for your next EMDR session, we start by closing out the last one with a re-evaluation phase. We evaluate your current psychological state and determine how well your treatment effects were maintained.

We also ask you about new memories that may have come up since your last session. Based on the results of these evaluations, we move to Phase One again for this particular session.

With EMDR, you can leave the traumatic past behind you and move into your future with comfort and ease. Contact us today for EMDR to help you heal from anxiety, PTSD, and other trauma today by filling out our online form or calling our knowledgeable staff. We also offer teletherapy through a secure online portal. 

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