Disturbing life events can lead to a multitude of symptoms and emotional distress, but Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is making a name for itself in the holistic counseling and wellness industry as a successful psychotherapy treatment.
EMDR therapy demonstrates that through the proper technique, the mind can heal from psychological trauma similar to how the body recovers from physical trauma. The brain’s information processing system moves naturally towards mental health and wellness, and yet if that system becomes blocked by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound becomes “dis-eased” and can cause intense suffering for the individual over a long period of time.
Using the detailed procedures within EMDR therapy sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes to remove the block and put them back on the path towards positive mental health and overall wellness.
The Phases of EMDR Therapy
According to the EMDR Institute, EMDR therapy involves attention to the past, present, and future. Focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events, but it is also given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions.
EMDR therapy sessions are broken up into 8 phases:
Phase 1: History Taking: Phase one involves assessing client readiness for processing, including affective tolerance, stability, life supports, overall health, dissociative disorders, secondary gains, etc. If there are no barriers to treatment, the therapist will continue to work with the client to develop a proper treatment plan based on the client’s history and treatment goals. Both the client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing during this phase.
Phase 2: Preparation: During the next phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress (coping skills) through a series of imagery and stress reduction techniques the client can use during or after the session. As the client observes positive and adaptive responses the therapist offers the client an opportunity for SLOW bilateral stimulation to reinforce the experience and the mind-body connection. Psychoeducation will also be included during phase 2 to ensure the client knows what to expect throughout EMDR reprocessing.
Phase 3: Assessment: The therapist works with the client to determine more specific components of the target and supports the client in identifying baseline measures of the distress associated with the troubling experience, memory, or event. This involves the client identifying these things:
- The visual image related to the target memory or event
- A negative belief about oneself (Negative Cognition)
- Develop and introduce a positive belief about oneself (Positive Cognition); paired with a baseline validity score (VoC)
- Identification of emotions and body sensations related to the target
- A score to assess the baseline level of distress (SUD) related to the target
Phase 4-6: Reprocessing (Desensitization, Installation, and Body Scan): Reprocessing is done using a FAST bilateral stimulation. This involves encouraging the client to notice whatever they notice (feelings, sensations, sounds, thoughts, words, etc.). This continues until there is no longer a negative charge associated with the target, and the positive cognition can be installed with a clear body scan.
Phase 7: Closure: This phase looks different depending on where the client is at the end of their reprocessing sessions. The therapist will assess for safety, support client with stabilization, and remind the client to contact support if needed. If the client cleared the target, a grounding or calming technique may be offered but may not be needed. The client is encouraged to log any new information that comes up for them between the next session to discuss with the therapist.
Phase 8: Reevaluation and Three-Pronged Protocol: The eighth and final phase involves the clinician assessing how the client is adjusting to the previously targeted material until there is no longer a negative charge. Then, the therapist will support the client in incorporating the new and adaptive positive beliefs and behaviors into anticipated future situations. Phase 8 also includes meaning making and a reflective and ongoing process and celebration of posttraumatic growth.
The actual method of bilateral stimulation the therapist uses can vary, and when equipment is available, can also be the choice of the client. Some clients may prefer “tappers” instead of eye movements, and other clients may prefer an auditory stimulation that bounces between the right and left ear by the use of headphones. Clients may also choose from a variety of self-tapping methods, and the therapist can also administer the bilateral tapping onto the client’s shoulders or on the outer edges of their knees. The most important considerations are that the stimulation bounces between the right and left hemisphere of the body, and the method chosen should be comfortable for the client and tailored to their preference. At Stella Luna, we have found that many of our clients have preferred options that enable them to close their eyes to focus more attention to their inward process.
In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of a painful event or unhelpful belief about oneself or the world can be transformed on an emotional, physical, and mental level. As a natural outcome of the EMDR process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings, and behavior are positively impacted.
EMDR Therapy at Stella Luna Cleveland Health and Wellness
At Stella Luna Counseling & Wellness, our number one priority is helping our clients heal while doing all we can therapeutically to ensure that you are able to live a happier, healthier and more balanced life.
Stella Luna’s licensed counselors utilize various types of therapies extensively to treat symptoms of trauma, anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, grief, chronic fear/phobias, addiction, mild eating/feeding disorders, and other maladaptive thought processes brought on by disturbing life events.
If you or a loved one are suffering from any of the conditions listed above, please fill out our new client form. For more information on Stella Luna or the services we offer, you can contact us here today.
Jennifer is a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC), psychotherapist and coach, creating a non-judgmental space for her clients to feel comfortable exploring their inner-most fears, challenges, and desires. She holds space for you to explore the meaningful connections between past and current experiences, limiting beliefs, and current behaviors that are holding you back from being the most authentic version of yourself you’ve ever experienced. Learn more about Jennifer and her work at Stella Luna.