What is EMDR Therapy? | Client centered online therapy & mental health care from a certified trauma therapist in Denver, Colorado. EMDR therapy, CBT, Brainspotting, DBT, CBT | MichelleDunnCounseling.net

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy is a treatment modality that combines both talk therapy and rapid eye movements or other form of stimulation such as tapping, hand buzzers, and sounds.

EMDR therapy was originally developed in 1987 by a psychologist named Francine Shapiro. There are detailed procedures and protocols used in EMDR that help to access unprocessed memories and emotions, so you can fully process through them. 

EMDR therapy was formed off the AIP (adaptive information processing) model. This model holds the belief that we are all born with processing systems in our brain that help to take in information, make sense of it, and store it. However, when one experiences a traumatic event, this system breaks down, and those memories are not able to be processed fully and get stored in an unprocessed form in your brain. Because of this, symptoms of PTSD can occur. These can include flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, negative world or self-views, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, and anger. EMDR helps a person to process these memories, with new thoughts and emotions attached to that memory, and store them more adaptively in their brain, thus decreasing or eliminating PTSD symptoms. 

EMDR therapy will not get rid of any traumatic or upsetting memories. However, it works to process the memories fully including the emotions attached to the memory. Therefore, reducing the activation around the memory so it is no longer as triggering, and decrease/eliminating PTSD symptoms. 


Can you do EMDR online?

EMDR can be done virtually. In fact, I have had many clients report that they feel it was helpful to be in their own space while doing this form of trauma therapy. Virtual EMDR therapy can be just as effective as doing EMDR in office.

EMDR and trauma: 

EMDR is widely used to treat Post Traumatic Stress disorder or other trauma related disorders. EMDR can be used for complex trauma or single trauma. EMDR calls these Different trauma Big T Trauma’s and little T Trauma’s. 

Can EMDR help with other things besides trauma?

EMDR can be used to help with other symptoms such as panic attacks, anxiety, addictions, phobias, grief or traumatic grief, depression, or other adverse life events such as divorce. 

What does an EMDR session look like? 

There are 8 structured phases of EMDR.

During a EMDR session a therapist will guide you through each of these eight phases:

EMDR THERAPY – Phase one:

History and treatment planning: During phase one a therapist will gather your history and start treatment planning with you focusing mostly on the trauma history. 

EMDR THERAPY – Phase two:

Preparation: This phase consists of a therapist explaining how EMDR works and practicing resourcing exercises. A therapist will address any questions you may have. 

EMDR THERAPY – Phase three:

Assessment Phase: A therapist will have you activate the memory that you are targeting. This includes the memory, the feelings, body sensations, negative self-beliefs, positive cognitions & VOC, and a SUDS (subjective units of distress scale 0-10).

EMDR THERAPY – Phase four:

Desensitization: The therapist will have you use rapid eye movements, tapping, or bilateral sound, while focusing on that memory until it is no longer distressing and the SUDS is less than 1. 

EMDR THERAPY – Phase Five:

Instillation: A therapist will help you install new thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the original memory. 

EMDR THERAPY – Phase six:

Body Scan: You and your therapist will complete a body scan while thinking of the original memory with the new thoughts that were installed in phase five. If there is a negative physical reaction, you will engage in further eye movements. If there are no more negative physical reactions, you can implement a future template if appropriate.

EMDR THERAPY – Phase Seven:

Closure: This can be used for when a memory is not fully processed that session. You should never leave a session EMDR or other therapy feeling like you are in high distress. 

EMDR Therapy – Phase Eight:

Reevaluation Phase: At each new session you and your therapist will discuss any new memories, feelings, thoughts, dreams, etc. about the memories from prior sessions to ensure your distress has remained low in-between sessions.  


Find out if EMDR is right for you.

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