Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment used to decrease psychological stress.

emdr therapy

EMDR mainly treats trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traumatic memories can cause post-traumatic stress if not processed completely, and EMDR aims to reduce trauma symptoms.

During treatment, the EMDR consultant will guide the patient to briefly recall the traumatic memory while experiencing bilateral (side-to-side) eye movements, known as BLS. This exercise shifts how memories are stored in your brain and reduces the emotion and distress associated with the memory.

How does EMDR work?

Experts believe that EMDR therapy is effective because briefly focusing on traumatic events combined with bilateral stimulation (BLS) helps to ease the processing of painful memories.

BLS helps decrease the intensity of the memory, making it less emotionally distressing as you aren’t giving those memories your full attention. It gives you something to focus on as you access your memories, decreasing the intensity of the memory and the emotional distress. Allowing you to process it entirely without overwhelming psychological stress.

When you seek EMDR therapy, your therapist will work with you to revisit the traumatic memory and recall feelings associated with the memory, including any negative emotions, thoughts and feelings.

There are typically anywhere from 6 to 12 treatment sessions for EMDR therapy, which is broken down into eight phases:

Phase 1 – Evaluation: In this phase, your EMDR therapist will analyze your symptoms and medical history to learn more about your needs. You will also identify potential trauma memories to address.

Phase 2 – Preparation: Your therapist will prepare you for treatment by covering various techniques to help you cope with psychological stress that may arise during treatment, such as deep breathing.

Phase 3 – Assessment: In the assessment phase, your therapist will help you through the process of targeting a specific memory along with any painful emotions, intrusive thoughts, and negative self-beliefs associated with the memory.

Phases 4-7 – Treatment: Treatment sessions begin with the desensitization of negative memories. You will let your mind go blank and identify thoughts and feelings, then “install” a positive image to replace the unwanted emotions. Then, if the memory leads to uncomfortable physical sensations, you will repeat the BLS process. Finally, your therapist will review your progress and provide relaxation techniques and coping mechanisms to help you continue improving.

Phase 8 – Re-evaluation: During the last phase, your therapist will ask you to bring up the emotions and memories you explored in the previous session. You may continue targeting those memories if they continue to cause distress.

Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?

EMDR is very beneficial for people dealing with symptoms of PTSD or traumatic memories. EMDR therapy is also effective for treating various mental health disorders and traumatic experiences, including:

Depression and bipolar disorders
Anxiety and panic attacks
Grief and loss
Performance anxiety
Eating disorders
Substance use disorders
Sexual assault
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma and stress-related issues

Anyone can experience overwhelming stress from trauma. At Mindright Counselling, our EMDR consultants will work to reduce your psychological stress and help you face your unprocessed trauma. Contact us at (604) 369-3890 to learn more about our services or book an appointment by submitting a form online.