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What You Need To Know About EMDR Therapy


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been influential in helping people who have PTSD and other symptoms for several years. If you have questions about EMDR therapy or want to know more about the process of EMDR therapy, how it works, and how many sessions of EMDR are needed, we are here to help. Our team of skilled professionals understands the inner workings of the EMDR process and is committed to helping those who need EMDR therapy. From phase 1 and phase 2 EMDR treatments and beyond, if you are looking for EMDR therapy in Corpus Christi or the surrounding areas, we are here to help with the resources you need.

What Is the History of EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy was created in 1987 to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is now used to aid with other conditions that may have been sparked by traumatic events, such as personality disorders like bipolar disorder, depressive disorder caused by past trauma, dissociative disorders, and so much more.

What Encompasses EMDR Therapy?

EMDR support services are considered individual therapy in which the patient comes in one to two times a week, ending in an average total of 6-12 sessions. With EMDR, sometimes attending fewer sessions may be more beneficial for the patient. 

Knowing the answers to common questions, such as how many sessions EMDR takes and how to support someone going through EMDR, are just some of the things you will learn within this innovative and individualized treatment method.

As highlighted by the EMDR Institute, EMDR now runs based on a theory called the Adaptive Information Processing model, created in 1991 by Dr. Francine Shapiro. This model essentially thinks of symptoms of the above-mentioned mental health conditions caused by past traumatic memories that continue to cause mental and emotional distress to the patients because the memory wasn’t fully processed.

These unprocessed, distressing memories are assumed to contain the negative emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations that occurred during the event. That means that, upon triggering these traumatic memories, these patients are essentially reliving the disturbing event/events that caused their trauma, which is the reason behind the symptoms of PTSD and/or other disorders.

How EMDR Therapy Is Used as an Effective Treatment

Instead of focusing on treating the aftereffects of traumatic experiences, EMDR seeks to hone in directly on the upsetting memories that caused the trauma and actually change the way the brain stores those memories. Going after the root cause of the trauma will decrease the mental and emotional distress affecting the patient, aiding in the treatment of trauma overall. Phases 4 through 6 specifically deal with this process, which will be discussed in the section below.

EMDR therapy utilizes bilateral stimulation (BLS), in which the therapist does certain actions or plays certain noises to stimulate both sides of the brain. This can be done through directed rapid eye movements prompted by the therapist during the session, certain auditory tones being played, and many other external stimuli.

 BLS has been shown to reduce the emotional intensity of the traumatic memories causing the patient is symptoms. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), when patients are focusing on the traumatic memory while, at the same time, receiving bilateral stimulation, this helps to reduce the emotional power of the memory. This is a truly powerful part of EMDR therapy and clinical services.

8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy processes and sessions are broken up into eight phases, each building off of the last. The true ingenuity of this method is that answering the question of how many EMDR sessions do I need is dependent on personal goals, objectives, and conditions. A personalized approach to treatment allows people looking for therapy in San Antonio and neighboring areas to get the assistance that works for them. 

You can find EMDR therapy for dummies guides, books, and online chat groups with useful EMDR information for patients. But working one on one with a therapist is the best way to get the best EMDR after-effects and to understand EMDR treatments from start to finish. From the EMRD phase and phase 2 and beyond, expert care makes all the difference.

Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning

The first step in EMDR therapy is establishing a safe and therapeutic environment. A therapist establishes trust with patients by honestly assessing their situation and showing their willingness to help them. Patients may not feel comfortable initially opening up about past traumas, so building a safe environment is key to furthering treatment.

Phase 2: Preparation

After successfully completing the treatment planning, the preparation phase begins. In this phase, the therapist sits down with the patient to fully explain how the upcoming EMDR therapy process will work out and set realistic expectations. The therapist will also help teach the patient grounding skills based on therapeutic techniques and quick self-control techniques to focus on reducing the stress of the whole process when needed. In fact, because of the intensity of the reprocessing of memories, this preparation phase alone can take anywhere from 1-4 sessions, according to the EMDR International Association.

Phase 3: Assessment

The event that will be reprocessed, or the target memory, is fully assessed in the assessment phase. This includes identifying any negative cognition or negative beliefs, feelings, and overall sensations about the event. The initial baseline measures are set by using the Subjective Units of Distress (SUD) scale of 0-10 and the Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale 1-7. EMDR therapy will be considered complete when the patient scores a 0 on the SUD scale and answers with 7s all around when remembering the targeted memory and the positive belief that will be replacing it.

Phase 4: Desensitization

In the fourth phase, the process of desensitization is started. That means the side-to-side eye movements and accompanying sounds or taps begin while the patient focuses on the target event. The purpose of this is to change the intensity of the emotions and thoughts attached to the memory. This will continue until the patient ranks their level of distress at zero.

Phase 5: Installation

After the patient has had their level of distress lowered completely, it’s time to move to the installation phase. This is where the patient will focus on strengthening an optimistic belief that they have that will become attached to the traumatic memory instead of their negative emotions.

Phase 6: Body Scan

While the patient holds that positive belief in the forefront of their mind while thinking about the traumatic event, the therapist will scan the patient’s body from head to toe. This is to look for any visual cues that the patient may still feel some distress. If there are still any signs of distress, the therapist will continue with BLS until no sign of distress can be found.

Phase 7: Closure

This whole session will have been emotionally, mentally, and perhaps even physically tough for the patient to have gone through. Phase 7 is about helping the patient return to a state of calmness at the end of a hard session. Here, those grounding and stress reduction skills we mentioned earlier will come into play. Making the time to create closure after a therapy session allows the patient to refocus and leave with a clear head afterward.

Phase 8: Reevaluation

This phase brings us to the beginning of the following sessions that will take place after the initial visit. This is a time for the patient and their therapist to take the time to discuss and evaluate the reprocessed memories from the last visit and ensure that the patient is still experiencing a lowered level of distress and is experiencing positive cognition or thinks positively when thinking about the target memory.

Explore EMDR Therapy as Part of New Choices’ Programs

Knowing what EMDR therapy means for you as an individual, the many EMDR benefits, and how EMDR medical services can help you manage PTSD symptoms is vital to long-term care., Active EMDR treatments can be life-changing, and once you understand how EMDR therapy is done, you will be better prepared to get the help you need.  

So, how will a therapist know when a patient is ready to end their EMDR therapy? However, the length of time that this whole process takes depends entirely on the case at hand. According to the EMDR Institute, individuals dealing with a single traumatic event in their sessions can find lasting results in only 3 sessions, though as many as a dozen might be needed for some people. 

No matter the number of treatment sessions needed, recovery from trauma is a different journey for everyone. There’s no shame or problem in needing more time to reprocess these memories. If you or a loved one are interested in pursuing EMDR therapy as a treatment, contact New Choices Treatment Centers today to learn more EMDR info and what we can do for you with our EMDR San Antonio, TX treatments.

 To begin your recovery journey today, contact us online or call us at (726) 888-7003.