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EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, is a psychotherapy modality that is particularly useful in treating trauma and trauma-related anxiety conditions. It involves re-triggering traumatic memories carefully and with purpose in a safe environment to help process these memories and work through them. 

Mental health conditions like PTSD are related to the mind’s unwillingness to reprocess traumatic events, and EMDR therapy aims to address that in a controlled environment with an experienced therapist.

When you and your therapist decide to use EMDR to treat your mental health symptoms, the two of you will go through the following process, which consists of 8 phases, to successfully address the different memories and experiences that are involved in your trauma.

8 Stages of EMDR Therapy 

EMDR involves working with each of your traumatic memories to desensitize you to them and then to reprocess them. The first step in EMDR is to decrease the emotion around the memory. From there, you can change your perception of it to eliminate the negative thoughts. 

EMDR does not remove painful memories, but neutralizes the emotions and thoughts associated with them, and reduces their ability to control you. The process uses the following steps:

  • Stage 1: Treatment Planning – Before beginning EMDR, your therapist will assess your needs based on your current symptoms and decide whether EMDR is the right treatment path. Your therapist will then need to build a complete understanding of your current stressors and previous traumas to guide you through treatment.
  • Stage 2: Treatment Preparation – During this stage, your therapist will go over more in depth what you can expect during treatment and in terms of results. You can also ask any questions that you may have.
  • Stage 3: Assessment – This is where the bulk of EMDR treatment begins. Your therapist will help you choose a target memory that you will be processing, as well as a more positive connotation to give this memory.
  • Stage 4: Desensitization – Your therapist will guide you into thinking about the memory, including the image of the memory, the physical sensations, and the words and emotions tied to it. At this time, your therapist will use eye movement or another distraction like tapping. The focus on two things at once will start to desensitize you to the memory so you can think about it with complete neutrality.
  • Stage 5: Installation – This part of the process is when you replace any existing negative thoughts with your positive thought. You will do this by thinking about both at once until it becomes an ingrained belief.
  • Stage 6: Body Scan – Once installation seems to be complete, you will do a body scan to check for any remaining unprocessed emotions or thoughts and do more bilateral processing at that moment.
  • Stage 7: Closure – When processing is complete or the session is over for the day, you will stop trying to actively recall the memory and your therapist will help you return to calmness.
  • Stage 8: Assessment – After you are through processing, you and your therapist will assess your progress to determine how successfully you reprocessed your target memories and what additional processing is still necessary during further treatment sessions.

In general, you will go through each of these steps for all of the different traumatic memories that you and your therapist consider to be targets, so the phases of EMDR are less of a linear process and more of one that repeats as many times as necessary. 

EMDR is one of the therapies that we offer at Flourish Psychology. We work with patients from a variety of backgrounds who have undergone a range of traumatic experiences. Our goal is to help you process and overcome memories of the past that may be challenging or keeping you from enjoying your life in the here and now. 

Learn more about our treatment options and if EMDR will be beneficial for you. We encourage you to set up an appointment with our Brooklyn therapists, today. 

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