Healing Trauma: How EMDR Therapy Works

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a revolutionary approach to treating trauma and other distressing life experiences. Developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, EMDR has gained widespread recognition for its effectiveness in helping individuals heal from past traumas and move forward in their lives.

The Basic Principles of EMDR

EMDR is based on the idea that traumatic experiences can get “stuck” in the brain, leading to ongoing psychological distress. During an EMDR session, the therapist guides the client through a series of bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or tapping, while the client recalls the traumatic memory. This bilateral stimulation is believed to help the brain process the memory and reduce its emotional intensity.

The Eight Phases of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy typically consists of eight phases, each designed to help the client process the traumatic memory and develop more adaptive coping mechanisms. These phases include:

  1. History Taking: The therapist gathers information about the client’s history and identifies the specific memories to target in treatment.
  2. Preparation: The therapist helps the client develop coping skills and relaxation techniques to manage distress during EMDR sessions.
  3. Assessment: The therapist identifies the specific aspects of the targeted memory, including the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations associated with it.
  4. Desensitization: The client focuses on the targeted memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as following the therapist’s finger with their eyes. This process helps desensitize the memory and reduce its emotional impact.
  5. Installation: The therapist helps the client replace negative beliefs about themselves with more positive ones, strengthening their sense of self-worth and resilience.
  6. Body Scan: The client checks in with their body to ensure that there are no remaining physical sensations associated with the memory.
  7. Closure: The therapist helps the client return to a state of equilibrium before ending the session.
  8. Reevaluation: In subsequent sessions, the therapist and client evaluate the progress made and determine if any additional targets need to be addressed.

The Benefits of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating trauma and other psychological disorders. Research has found that EMDR can lead to significant reductions in symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression, and can help individuals process traumatic memories in a safe and supportive environment.


EMDR therapy offers hope to those who have experienced trauma by providing a safe and effective way to process traumatic memories and move forward in their lives. By understanding the basic principles of EMDR and its eight phases, individuals can make informed decisions about whether EMDR therapy is right for them and take the first steps towards healing trauma.