Therapy Tuesday: EMDR – Phases of treatment

EMDR therapy has 8 phases. Generally speaking, things can be resolved in as few as 6 sessions. Deeper work can be completed with more, of course. (I went to the deeper work after I realized how effective it was.)

The phases of EMDR are:

  • history taking
  • client preparation
  • assessment
  • desensitization
  • installation
  • body scan
  • closure
  • examining the progress of the treatment

In the history phase, the therapist gathers information about the trauma and the patient. They also determine if a patient is truly ready for EMDR. Lastly, targets are identified for focus in the treatment sessions.

During client preparation a therapist will make sure the client has the skills to manage distressing emotions and thoughts. They may teach these to the client at that time. EMDR is powerful, and throwing a person into it without any preparation would be irresponsible.

Assessment, Desensitization, Installation, and Body Scan are each a part of isolating thoughts, emotions, and physical feelings related to trauma. Negative beliefs about self, memories, of past traumas, physical reactions to threats and feelings that overwhelm are each addressed through the use of bilateral stimulation. The therapist helps the patient isolate a focus area, track their responses, and process the trauma so the brain can stop pulling it out and running the patient back through it. (There is, of course, more to this process. I’m giving a high-level overview, not details. I am not trained in EMDR. I’m just sharing my own experiences with a powerful tool for healing.)

The closure phase is homework. A patient will be asked to track their reactions and thoughts through the week. Sometimes this is done with a chart provided by the therapist, and at other times it is simply a verbal list of changes the patient notices.

Each following session begins with examining the progress of treatment. What has been accomplished, what is left unresolved, and which goal is next?

Next week I’ll share some of my personal experiences with EMDR and how my therapist guided me through the process as well as how it changed my life.

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