Healing Trauma With EMDR: a Step-By-Step Approach

EMBR Trauma

We were drowning in the depths of our trauma, feeling its weight consume our every thought and action.

But then we discovered EMDR, a powerful therapy that promised to heal our wounds and guide us towards a brighter future.

In this article, we will take you on a step-by-step journey through the process of healing trauma with EMDR.

Together, we will explore the transformative power of this approach and uncover the path to reclaiming our lives.

Key Takeaways

  • Trauma can have long-lasting effects on mental, emotional, and physical health.
  • EMDR therapy utilizes bilateral stimulation to reprocess traumatic memories and alleviate trauma symptoms.
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment and adequately preparing clients enhance the effectiveness of EMDR therapy.
  • The eight phases of EMDR therapy involve gathering information, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation.

Understanding Trauma and Its Effects

We begin by exploring the profound impact trauma can have on our lives.

Trauma, whether it be from a single event or ongoing experiences, can leave lasting scars on our minds and bodies. It has the power to shape our beliefs, behaviors, and overall well-being.

When we experience trauma, our brains and nervous systems go into overdrive, causing a flood of stress hormones that can disrupt our ability to think clearly, regulate emotions, and form healthy relationships.

This can lead to a range of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, and avoidance. The effects of trauma can be far-reaching, extending beyond our mental and emotional health to impact our physical health as well.

Understanding the profound impact trauma has on our lives is a crucial first step towards healing and recovery.

The Basics of EMDR Therapy

During EMDR therapy, we engage in a process that utilizes bilateral stimulation to reprocess traumatic memories and alleviate their negative impact. This therapeutic approach is based on the understanding that traumatic memories are stored in the brain in a fragmented and dysregulated manner, leading to emotional and psychological distress. By incorporating bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones, we facilitate the integration of these fragmented memories, allowing for their reprocessing and resolution.

Here is a visualization of the EMDR process:

  1. We identify the target memory or event that’s causing distress.
  2. We establish a safe and supportive environment for the client.
  3. We guide the client to focus on the memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation.
  4. We facilitate the processing of the memory, allowing for the emergence of new insights and adaptive beliefs.

Through this method, EMDR therapy aims to alleviate the symptoms of trauma and promote healing and resilience.

Preparation for EMDR Treatment

To prepare for EMDR treatment, it’s important to create a safe and supportive environment for our clients, ensuring their comfort and trust throughout the therapeutic process. This involves establishing a therapeutic relationship built on empathy, respect, and non-judgment.

We must educate our clients about the EMDR process, explaining how it works and what they can expect during the sessions. It’s vital to address any concerns or questions they may have, providing them with the necessary information to make informed decisions about their treatment.

Additionally, we must assess their readiness for EMDR, taking into consideration their emotional stability and ability to tolerate distress. By adequately preparing our clients, we can enhance the effectiveness of EMDR therapy and promote their healing and growth.

The Eight Phases of EMDR

Throughout EMDR therapy, our aim is to guide clients through the eight phases of healing trauma. These phases provide a structured framework that helps individuals process and integrate their traumatic experiences.

Here are the eight phases:

  1. History Taking: We gather information about the client’s past experiences, current symptoms, and treatment goals. This allows us to develop a comprehensive understanding of their trauma and tailor the therapy accordingly.
  2. Preparation: We help clients develop coping skills and establish a sense of safety before delving into trauma processing. This phase includes teaching relaxation techniques and ensuring clients feel supported and ready for the upcoming work.
  3. Assessment: We identify specific traumatic memories or targets to focus on during treatment. Clients are asked to bring up distressing images, negative beliefs, and bodily sensations associated with the targeted memories.
  4. Desensitization: Using bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or tapping, we facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic memories. This phase aims to reduce the emotional intensity and disturbance associated with these memories.
  5. Installation: We work on strengthening positive beliefs and self-assurance to replace the negative beliefs associated with the trauma. This phase helps clients develop a more adaptive perspective on themselves and their experiences.
  6. Body Scan: We help clients identify and process any residual physical sensations or discomfort related to the traumatic memories. This phase promotes a mind-body connection and further integration of the healing process.
  7. Closure: At the end of each session, we ensure clients feel grounded and safe before leaving. This phase involves reviewing the progress made, providing self-soothing techniques, and reinforcing feelings of stability.
  8. Reevaluation: Throughout the therapy process, we continuously assess the treatment progress and adjust the focus as needed. This phase allows us to address any remaining targets or new aspects that arise during the healing journey.

Integrating Healing and Moving Forward

As we progress through the eight phases of EMDR therapy, our focus shifts towards integrating healing and moving forward with our clients. It is in this phase that we help our clients consolidate their gains from previous sessions and prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. We work together to identify any remaining negative beliefs or emotions related to the traumatic event and target them for processing. By using bilateral stimulation and guiding our clients through the reprocessing of these memories, we help them replace negative beliefs with positive ones and facilitate their ability to move forward in life. The table below illustrates the key steps involved in the process of integrating healing and moving forward:

Step Description
1 Identify remaining negative beliefs or emotions
2 Target these beliefs or emotions for processing
3 Use bilateral stimulation to facilitate reprocessing
4 Replace negative beliefs with positive ones


Frequently Asked Questions


How Long Does It Typically Take to See Results From EMDR Therapy?

Typically, we start seeing results from EMDR therapy within a few sessions. The length of time it takes to fully heal from trauma varies for each person, but EMDR can be an effective and efficient approach.

Can EMDR Therapy Be Effective for All Types of Trauma?

EMDR therapy can be effective for various types of trauma. Studies show that 84% of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder experienced significant improvement after just three sessions.

Are There Any Potential Side Effects or Risks Associated With EMDR Therapy?

Yes, there are potential side effects and risks associated with EMDR therapy. These can include increased distress during sessions, temporary exacerbation of symptoms, and emotional or physical discomfort.

Is It Possible for EMDR Therapy to Retraumatize Someone?

Yes, it is possible for EMDR therapy to retraumatize someone if not administered properly. It is important to work with a trained professional who can guide the process safely and effectively.

Can EMDR Therapy Be Used in Combination With Other Forms of Therapy or Medication?

Yes, EMDR therapy can be used in combination with other forms of therapy or medication. It’s important to discuss this with a qualified professional to determine the best treatment plan for individual needs.


In conclusion, EMDR therapy offers a transformative path towards healing trauma. By understanding its effects and following the eight phases, individuals can integrate healing and move forward.

As the saying goes, ‘The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.’ With EMDR, we can embrace our past pain and emerge stronger, shining with resilience and hope.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Medically reviewed by
Larry Bell, MS, LPC, CRC Larry Bell, MS, LPC, CRC

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