Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – What is it?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is non-traditional but comprehensive psychotherapy. It is used to deal with negative emotions associated with traumatic events. Initially designed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is used to alleviate distress, reform negative beliefs, and tone down physiological arousal.

During this process, the client is asked to revisit their traumatic memories sequentially. They are also prompted to focus on an external stimulus. Mostly this stimulus is lateral eye movements directed by the therapist, but other stimuli can also be used like a tap on the hand or music.

EMDR is based on the principle of natural healing. As our body is capable of healing itself after an injury, our brains can heal themselves as well. But sometimes, this healing process is hindered. Painful and traumatic memories associated with a negative life experience block the process of mental healing. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing provides a means to clear this block and allow the natural healing pathways of the mind to work.

What are the benefits of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is best known for its PTSD benefits. But research is being conducted to see other psychological benefits associated with this therapy. EMDR can help with a range of mental disturbances, including:

  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)




  Behavioral problems

  Relationships troubles


○  Personality disorders

What should I expect from an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Session?

A typical Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing session is focused on the past, present, and future. Attention is given to a past traumatic event and disturbing memory. Next, the focus is diverted to the present, how past disturbances are interfering with current functioning, and what behavioral changes can positively influence future outcomes.

These desired outcomes are implemented in the following eight phases:

Phase I:

Includes history taking and goal setting. The therapist will ask you about your past negative experiences. In this phase, the therapist and you will decide the targeted areas of treatment. These targets include memories, present triggers, and future goals.

Phase II

Focuses on preparing you for the therapy. Your therapist will guide you about your treatment and teach you strategies to effectively handle your emotional distress. During this phase, your therapist will provide adequate sources to manage your stress as you progress through the treatment session.

Phase III

Focuses on a targeted memory and relevant images, cognition, and body sensations. During this phase Validity of Cognition (VOC) and Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) scales are used to record the emotion and cognition. These scales are again used at the end of the therapy session to note emotional changes.

Phase IV

Requires you to focus on the disturbing memory while engaging in eye movements or other bilateral stimuli. You will be asked to report any thoughts that emerge during this procedure. The therapist will adjust the focus of their BLS according to your thoughts. This process will continue until the particular memory is no longer disturbing.

Phase V

Known as installation and focuses on strengthening positive cognition.

Phase VI

Involves scanning for residual somatic distress and uses standardized BLS to process this negative sensation.

Phase VII

Known as closure and is used to end the session if some negative emotions are still present related to the memory. This phase serves as a containment to safely end the session and start over when needed.

Phase VIII

The reevaluation phase, is used to begin the next session. The therapist will evaluate to see if you have retained the effects of the previous session or if any new memory needs to be dealt with.


Non-traditional psychotherapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing can take one to three sessions to process one memory. To get the maximum benefits of this therapy, the total duration of the treatment varies from person to person.


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