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What is EMDR Therapy and How Does it Help?

Learn more about EMDR therapy, how it works, and if it is the appropriate treatment option for you here.

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy refers to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, and it is similar to brainspotting. In EMDR, the patient is guided through different eye movements, which have been shown to help with mood and thought processes.

The origins of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy can be traced back to 1987. Francine Shapiro, the developer of EMDR therapy, realized that her own eye movements coordinated with changes in her mood. Shapiro then continued to study the impact of eye movements on moods, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 1

EMDR Therapy

How Effective is EMDR Therapy?

Although EMDR therapy is a newer form of psychotherapy, there have been several studies conducted on the efficacy of the therapy in the treatment of PTSD and other disorders. As of right now, EMDR is considered to be a highly effective form of treatment. 2

EMDR is most effective within twelve to twenty-four sessions, although this number varies based on individual needs. 3

EMDR vs. Exposure Therapy

EMDR therapy is different from exposure therapy in that it doesn’t involve directly confronting an object that causes stress. Instead, patients are guided through eye movements with a focus on understanding negative experiences and developing a healthier mental space.

What Is EMDR Therapy Used for?

Although EMDR was first used to treat PTSD, it has been used as an effective treatment for numerous other conditions. Some of the conditions that EMDR therapy can be used to treat include:

  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Chronic illness
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Pain attacks
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sexual assault
  • Sleep disturbance

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

EMDR therapy is an eight-step process in recovery. It works by using guided eye movements to unlock and thus better understand traumatic experiences. 4

Phase 1: History Taking and Treatment Planning

The first phase of EMDR therapy focuses on preparing for a successful, safe therapeutic experience. During this time, the professional overseeing your EMDR therapy treatment will discuss your history with you and will begin collaborating alongside you to help develop the right treatment plan for you. This may involve a specific session to better understand the patient’s trauma and their goals for EMDR.

History taking and treatment planning will also focus on the individual’s resources. This can include their own mental health as well as external factors, such as their support system.

Phase 2: Preparation

Phase one is preparation for phase two, which is preparation for the therapy experience itself. During this phase of EMDR therapy, the healthcare provider overseeing the process will explain EMDR and answer any questions that the patient has about this form of therapy.

This is also the time that the therapist will prepare the patient for the emotional distress they may experience. Building awareness and teaching the patient healthy, safe coping mechanisms is essential at this time.

Phase 3: Assessment

Phase three, or the assessment phase, is when the EMDR therapist identifies the core concern and begins to decide how best to approach the therapy session. This involves learning more about the images, experiences, and beliefs surrounding the patient’s traumatic experience.

Phase 4: Desensitization

Desensitization is the beginning of EMDR therapy itself. At this point, the therapist overseeing the treatment will begin to guide the patient through different eye movements while the patient thinks of the traumatic experience.

Phase 5: Installation

During the fifth phase of EMDR therapy installation, it is important to focus on a positive belief in conjunction with the negative experience a patient is seeking to treat. This isn’t meant to override the valid experience that the patient underwent, but rather, it is to help reduce the distress surrounding the event, allowing for closure.

Phase 6: Body scan

Phase six focuses on further establishing the positive belief of the fifth phase.

Phase 7: Closure

Closure will focus on helping the patient end their EMDR therapy session. Having focused on the distress of the traumatic situation as well as the positive beliefs fostered during the session, the patient can now return to a neutral state. This allows them to evaluate their memories safely.

Phase 8: Re-Evaluation

EMDR therapy needs more than a single session to be successful. The beginning of each session will focus on identifying a target and walking through the phases before eventually re-evaluating how the patient feels.

Things to Consider Before Trying EMDR Therapy

Although EMDR therapy can be a beneficial method of treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions, there are several factors to consider before pursuing this course of treatment.

Possible Side Effects and Dangers of Using EMDR Therapy

EMDR is physically side-effect free since it is a form of psychotherapy and not a medication. However, since it does involve dealing with and working through past trauma, it can be difficult to navigate and cause emotional distress. It is important to be aware of these side effects before beginning EMDR.

Finding the Right EMDR Therapist

The most important component of EMDR therapy is having the right therapist. Since you will be dealing with trauma and emotions, it’s important to find a therapist you feel comfortable being vulnerable around. This typically means a therapist that is professional and compassionate.

It is also important to have an EMDR therapist that is certified and knowledgeable about this type of therapy. Although EMDR is a type of psychotherapy, it is unique and may require a specialist.

EMDR Therapy for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Problems

EMDR therapy can be a beneficial treatment option for substance use disorders as well as a variety of other conditions. It can be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing(Emdr)

How Much Does EMDR Therapy Cost?

How much EMDR therapy costs can depend on numerous factors, including location and the professional you are interested in working with. It can also depend on your individual needs, such as the number of sessions you may need and their duration.

Contact a Professional EMDR Therapist at Genesis Recovery Now 

Here at Genesis Recovery, you can find a variety of treatment options to help you navigate your mental health journey. Our compassionate team of certified healthcare and mental health professionals are prepared to help you at every step of your journey, from EMDR therapy to additional treatment methods, all while utilizing our unique holisticly-integrated treatment programs and the beauty of the San Diego landscape.

To learn more about if EMDR therapy is right for you, contact Genesis Recovery today.


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