The 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy
In EMDR, there are eight phases of treatment. EMDR is conducted over the course of multiple sessions with generally 6-12 sessions needed. For some, repeating EMDR therapy for different types of painful events is needed to overcome multiple issues.
Phase 1: Information Gathering
This first portion of EMDR involves discovering parts of the patient’s past that are contributing to post-traumatic stress disorder, such as certain events. In this phase, goals for treatment are created and the likelihood of treatment to treat PTSD symptoms is discussed.
Phase 2: Preparation
It’s important to feel safe and well-prepared prior to any course of treatment including EMDR. The preparation phase involves the establishment of a safe space and an understanding of the treatment process. The therapist may also discuss stress reduction techniques that can be employed during treatment.
Phase 3: Assessment
Following phases one and two, the assessment phase helps narrow down the specific memories or events that affect the patient’s mental health the most. It is in this phase that negative emotions and beliefs are identified. The EMDR therapist will also help the patient identify the positive beliefs that replace the negative ones.
Phase 4: Desensitization
During desensitization, bilateral movements are used to induce eye movements and evoke physiological arousal to negative stimuli. This phase is the beginning of EMDR itself, as all the physical sensations related to a negative event are identified and processed.
Phase 5: Installation
The installation phase is where the positive replacement belief is inserted in place of the negative belief. Often, the belief itself is identified in phase three, but may be a new belief discovered during desensitization.
Phase 6: Body Scan
Evaluating the patient’s physiological response to the traumatic memory following the previous phases is how the therapist determines the progress made during EMDR. The goal is for symptoms to be greatly reduced or eliminated by this phase.
Phase 7: Stabilization
Once the brain learns to process a traumatic memory in a healthy way, patients often still need help navigating negative emotions that occur in between sessions. The stabilization phase of EMDR is when the therapist discusses self-soothing techniques that can be used until the next session. This is also a “cool down” period, where the therapist ensures the patient is calm and safe following treatment.
Phase 8: Closure & Follow-Up Planning
In this final phase, EMDR therapy progress is reviewed to determine if additional sessions are needed. This is also when the therapist will set expectations for what a patient might experience in the future and address any follow-up care plans.