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All About EMDR Therapy

Today, we are going to talk about “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy,” which is a relatively newer technique compared to other psychotherapy methods. American Psychological Association explains this method as a “structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.” The first clinical trial of the method dates back to 1989. Since then, this method has been observed to be helpful in many cases and for many patients, especially ones involving resolving a traumatic experience. Let’s look in more detail at how this therapy works and becomes useful. Keep in mind that everyone’s therapy journeys’ are different; thus, like all methods, EMDR can take many different forms to suit the patient.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, developed in 1987 by Shapiro (2001) for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), follows the Adaptive Information Processing model (Shapiro 2007). EMDR Therapy is an individual therapy, typically lasting 6-12 sessions, with some benefiting from fewer sessions, often conducted consecutively. The Adaptive Information Processing model argues that PTSD symptoms and similar disorders are triggered by traumatic memories that were not resolved and cause discomfort in an individual. According to the model, the distress stems from the traumatic memories not being fully processed, and they are understood to contain emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and physical aspects (“Eye Movement”). When these memories are triggered, they come in as the symptoms of PTSD and other similar conditions. EMDR Therapy involves moving your eyes a specific way while you process traumatic memories, and it directly targets memory and is aimed to alter how that memory was stored in the brain in order to end the distress caused by it.


EMDR Therapy follows a structured 8-step program in order to achieve maximum outcomes. The eight steps are stated as: 1) history taking and treatment planning, 2) preparation, 3) assessment, 4) desensitization, 5) installation, 6) body scan, 7) closure, and 8) reevaluation.


Phase 1: History (Note) Taking and Treatment Planning

Begin with a therapist-client conversation regarding therapy goals and building trust.

The client's history is investigated, and a treatment plan is developed, taking into account therapy tempo and trauma selection.

Phase 2: Preparation

The therapist describes EMDR therapy, establishes expectations, and addresses the client's worries. A trusting therapy connection is formed, and coping methods are devised.

Some clients may need to spend additional time in Phases 1 and 2 before moving on.

Phase 3: Assessment

The target event for reprocessing is identified, as are the accompanying thoughts, feelings, and sensations. The Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) and Validity of Cognition (VOC) scores were used as baseline measures. Dual attention bilateral stimulation (BLS), such as eye movements, sounds, or taps, is introduced.

Phase 4: Desensitization

Bilateral simulation is used while concentrating on the traumatic experience until the disturbance is reduced to zero (or one if relevant). New ideas, sensations, visions, and feelings may arise.

Phase 5: Installation

The client reinforces a positive belief related to the target event until it feels entirely true.

Phase 6: Body Scan

The clients are asked to observe their physical response while thinking of the memories that were worked on in order to observe any physical distress remaining.

Phase 7: Closure

Ends each reprocessing session by aiding the client in regaining control.

When the client feels neutral about the event, the positive belief is strong, and there is no bodily distress, reprocessing is complete.

Phase 8: Reevaluation

After reprocessing, each new session is started. The client and therapist examine the strength of the positive belief and review recent developments. Determine future therapy goals and objectives.


According to Shapiro and Forrest (2016), over 7 million people have been effectively treated by 110,000 therapists in 130 countries since 2016 by using EMDR techniques. This method has been growing substantially in influence as a therapy tool all around the world and is being used for anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, in addition to PTSD conditions. Whether used or not, it is interesting to observe how little physiological stimulations like eye movements can make a great physiological differences.


Edited by Bilge Öztürk


Works Cited

"About EMDR Therapy." EMDR International Association, www.emdria.org/about-emdr-therapy/.

"The Eight Phases of EMDR Therapy." EMDR International Association, 13 Aug. 2021, www.emdria.org/blog/the-eight-phases-of-emdr-therapy/.

"Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy."

American Psychological Association

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