How Does EMDR Work To Heal Trauma?

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EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a form of therapy that is well suited to treating several different types of mental health conditions. The idea behind EMDR therapy is that someone can begin to reprocess and replace any previous negative memories that are associated with a traumatic event with more positive ones in order to move forward again and not be held back by that trauma anymore. Let’s learn more about how EMDR works to heal trauma.

How EMDR Therapy Works

EMDR therapy involves eight different phases. This form of therapy usually takes between eight to twelve sessions that last between 60-90 minutes. Let’s learn more about the eight different phases of EMDR therapy and how it can help heal trauma.

1. History Taking

The first phase of EMDR therapy is working with a healthcare provider to collect information about you and your past. This is a typical process in any type of therapy. A therapist will work with you and ask you necessary questions about yourself, your reasoning for attending therapy, and what you’re looking to get out of therapy to see if EMDR is well-suited for you as well as your wants and needs.

2. Client Preparation

The second phase of treatment will involve your therapist prepping you for what to expect during an EMDR session. They’ll go over the process and give you some tools, tips, and tricks in order to better prepare you and help you feel more comfortable and confident before starting a session. Some of the tips and tricks will involve coping mechanisms and emotion management tools that you can use during treatment if any negative emotions or feelings come up that may be associated with past trauma.

3. Assessment

The assessment phase is when you talk to your therapist about the specific memories you’d like to work on during treatment. Your therapist will help you identify these negative thoughts and memories as well as how you feel towards them. You’ll also work with them on discussing some positive beliefs you’d like to hold moving forward.

4. Desensitization

The desensitization phase is when your therapist tries to help you recall specific memories or beliefs that you have associated with the trauma. They’ll try to help you uncover any memories, thoughts, or feelings your body and brain may have held onto. While this is happening, they’ll pay attention to how you’re feeling and the thoughts you’re having during this experience.

5. Installation

The installation phase involves the new beliefs that will replace the negative thoughts and emotions. Your therapist will work with you to help you focus on that new belief you want to incorporate into the reprocessed memory.

6. Body Scan

The body scan phase is used to see your progress during EMDR therapy. With each session, the original signs and symptoms should decrease and even fade completely. The reprocessing is completed once the signs and symptoms have gone away completely.

7. Closure

Closure is the second to last phase of EMDR therapy. While the reprocessing is complete, there are still action items that you’ll have to do on your own end to help keep yourself balanced and stable. A therapist will work with you on how to replace any negative thoughts on your own or how you can work together in another session is something comes up outside of treatment.

8. Re-evaluation

The final phase of EMDR therapy involves working with your therapist to go over the overall progress you’ve made together. This re-evaluation will help determine if additional sessions are needed.

Next Steps

EMDR is a highly effective form of treatment, especially for healing trauma. Not only does it work faster compared to many other forms of therapy, it tends to be a lot less stressful since the client doesn’t have to retraumatize themselves by talking about all of the details of the trauma that they endured.

EMDR therapy could be the exact treatment method you’re looking for if you’re struggling with trauma. One of the best ways to see if it’s the best treatment method for you is to reach out for a consultation. Reach out today to get started.


Jeffrey Aviles, LCSW-C

Baltimore Counseling Center