When a person is recovering from a trauma, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR might be used as a form of therapy. EMDR is a technique that uses sensory input to help with trauma recovery. You might be wondering, what is EMDR?

What is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)?

There are several psychotherapy theories that EMDR is based on. This includes several concepts stemming from cognitive behavior therapy. The therapeutic techniques of EMDR may help unblock emotional processes that have stagnated as a result of distress. Essentially, unblocking emotions can help reprogram the brain. Once this occurs it can aid in healing from the pain and fear that stems from the emotional distress and trauma that was experienced.

EMDR History

Francine Shapiro developed the therapy in 1987 as a way to help people who were struggling with experiences that caused them emotional trauma. Research and the use of EMDR has continued over the years and it is now a popular form of treatment for mental health issues.

Some of the techniques used for EMDR include audio stimulation, hand tapping, and eye movements. These techniques are done by professionals who can also treat panic disorders.


Initially, EMDR was developed and effective in treating traumatic memories and traumatic events. However, it is now commonly used to treat a number of mental illnesses. For example, someone experiencing a panic disorder might consider this form of therapy. During a session, an EMDR therapist might ask you to pay attention to fear thoughts and physical sensations linked to panic attacks. For example, if driving a vehicle often causes you to experience a panic or anxiety attack, EMDR could help you remain calm before you start driving and feel safer while you are on the road.

People suffering from anxiety, addictions, depression, chronic pain, panic attacks, phobias, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-esteem issues, or eating disorders may benefit from EMDR.

How EMDR Works

EMDR therapy uses eight treatment phases. These phases of treatment focus on the past, present, and future. The sessions are designed to help break associations with symptoms and circumstances. Each of the phases will work through emotional trauma and distress and then learn skills to help you deal with current stress and possible future stresses.

EMDR treatment can provide quick relief. Many people will start to feel a bit better after their very first session. However, as with any type of mental health therapy, there are many variables that will come into play in regards to how EMDR works for an individual.

First Phase of EMDR

During the first phase, you will provide your complete history. This might include disturbing events and disturbing memories and past experiences. You will also discuss the current stresses you might be experiencing. Your history will help develop a plan of treatment that will target specific incidents or memories.

You might start with childhood and move forward. If you have a condition such as anxiety, depression, or panic disorder, you might discuss when these feelings started, what the worst one felt like, and the timeline for your most recent attack.

Second Phase of EMDR

During the second phase, you will learn ways to deal with anxiety and stress. This may include mental exercises.

Third to Sixth Phase of EMDR

The third through the sixth phase of EMDR will be where the work is really done. Typically, the phase will start with you targeting a particular memory or life experience. You will describe your memory in detail, including how this memory makes you feel physically and mentally. You will then come up with a positive belief and negative belief that you have related to the memory. Next, you will rate the beliefs on how factual they really are. This is the point where EMDR stimulation will occur. These sessions are the most important aspect of this type of therapy and in order for it to truly work for an individual, the belief in the system along with truly wanting to solve the issues must occur. A person must be willing to put in the work in order to be successful.

Seventh Phase of EMDR

Phase seven is the closure phase. At this point, you will discuss positive steps that have been made and how you can continue on a positive journey.

Final Phase of EMDR

The final phase is reevaluation. During this phase, you will look over your goals and discuss your progress. Phase eight will also focus on dealing with possible future stresses that you may encounter and how to better cope with things as they come up.

Does EMDR Work?

EMDR has been a successful form of therapy for many people throughout the years. The idea behind this type of therapy is to change the negative thought process. Taking a painful memory or event and learning a new way to think about it can help rewire the brain to look and think about things from a different perspective. This is not a one size fits all type of therapy. Only a licensed therapist can help determine if this might work for an individual.

SAGE Counseling Omaha

At SAGE Counseling Omaha, our primary focus is on helping you to get the support and treatment that you need as you move forward. We all experience challenges that are often too difficult to work through on their own, and we are here to support you during these tough times.

When you connect with our compassionate counseling team, you can rest assured that you will receive the individualized care that you need. Contact us today. For approved clients, we are able to utilize telehealth services through our HIPAA compliant virtual software.