Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing: What Clients Can Expect

By Fran Dinehart, LCSW

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic technique used to address issues resulting from trauma. Clients who struggle to participate in talk therapy might find EMDR more successful as they are not asked to discuss their traumatic memories in depth. EMDR treatment employs eight phases.  I previously shared a case study of an EMDR client on this blog. You can read it here. This time I will cover the different phases of EMDR so a potential client will know what to expect. 

Phase one focuses on general history-taking of a client’s symptoms, traumatic events of the past, current triggers and resources, and goals for the future.  This phase can be very brief, as the therapist does not need to know the details of the trauma to help you work through it.  

Phase two is preparation.  As part of the treatment process, clients focus on negative experiences they generally avoid. It is reasonable to expect that symptoms might get worse in the short term before they get better.  To assist in this phase, I educate my clients on several relaxation and visualization techniques that foster stabilization and personal control, which helps alleviate symptoms. These exercises act as a transition between the high emotionality of accessing traumatic memories and the routines of daily life, and can also be used for self-soothing after a triggering event outside of session.

Phase three is assessment.  You do not need to have a specific memory of a traumatic event for EMDR to be effective.  Many people with PTSD experience memory issues such as fugue states and dissociation. I teach my clients to use a specific journaling format called a TICES log to record the times they feel triggered, which we then use to determine the appropriate targets for desensitization.

Phases four through seven are desensitization, installation, and body scan.  I ask clients to focus on the identified negative memory for brief sets of time and pair the focusing with bi-lateral stimulation from rhythmic tonal noises.  This allows for the spontaneous emergence of insights, emotions, and other memories. Continuing to use bi-lateral stimulation, we strengthen positive neurological networks and enhance positive self-beliefs.  We would either complete processing of any residual areas of disturbance if ready, or use some of the techniques from phase two to close the session.

At the beginning of next session, we would re-evaluate treatment effects and explore what may have emerged since last session.

Interested in counseling or EMDR? JFS is here for you and your loved ones. To schedule an appointment, call (504) 831-8475.


Want to know more about EMDR? Learn more here: https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

← Blog