top of page
  • Writer's pictureSophia Khan

Unlocking Healing Through EMDR: A Path to Overcoming Trauma

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful psychotherapy approach designed to help individuals process and heal from traumatic experiences. Developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, EMDR has been extensively researched and validated as an effective treatment for various forms of trauma. This blog post delves into what EMDR is, the process involved, its application for different types of trauma, and what you can expect from the therapy.

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements or bilateral tapping), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories. EMDR aims to reduce the lingering effects of past trauma and promote healing by helping the brain process these memories more adaptively.

The Process of EMDR Therapy: The Eight Phases

EMDR therapy is a structured process that consists of eight distinct phases:

  1. History Taking and Treatment Planning: The therapist gathers a detailed history and develops a treatment plan tailored to the individual's needs.

  2. Preparation: The therapist explains the EMDR process, establishes a trusting relationship, and teaches various techniques for managing emotional distress.

  3. Assessment: The client identifies specific traumatic memories and the negative beliefs associated with them. The therapist helps the client rate the intensity of these memories using the Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale (SUDS).

  4. Desensitization: During this phase, the client focuses on the traumatic memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation (e.g., guided eye movements). This helps reduce the emotional charge of the memory.

  5. Installation: The therapist helps the client replace negative beliefs with positive ones, reinforcing these positive beliefs through bilateral stimulation.

  6. Body Scan: The client focuses on any physical sensations related to the trauma to ensure that all residual tension has been addressed.

  7. Closure: The therapist ensures that the client returns to a state of emotional equilibrium before ending the session. Techniques for self-soothing and relaxation may be revisited.

  8. Reevaluation: The therapist and client review progress, discuss any new insights or memories that have emerged, and plan future sessions accordingly.

Application for Different Types of Trauma

As a trauma therapist who specializes in supporting those processing relational trauma, such as trauma experienced in parental or romantic relationships, I am passionate about drawing from EMDR practices to support those looking to process childhood trauma or betrayal trauma.

·       EMDR for Complex Trauma and Childhood Trauma

Complex trauma and childhood trauma often involve multiple, chronic, and prolonged traumatic experiences, which can be challenging to address. EMDR is particularly effective for these types of trauma because it helps individuals process deeply ingrained memories that are often fragmented and dissociated. By systematically addressing each traumatic memory, EMDR therapy can help clients reprocess these experiences, reduce their emotional intensity, and integrate them into a healthier narrative.

·       EMDR for Relationship Trauma, including Betrayal Trauma and Narcissistic Abuse

Relationship trauma occurs when someone who is dependent on another for their wellbeing is significantly harmed by that person. This can include instances of infidelity, keeping secrets, other forms of betrayals, name-calling, or narcissistic abuse. This type of trauma can have profound and lasting effects on trust and relational security. EMDR therapy helps individuals process feelings of betrayal, abuse, and associated negative beliefs, facilitating healing and the rebuilding of self-trust. By addressing the core memories and emotional responses related to attachment wounds, EMDR can help individuals regain a sense of safety and empowerment.

Considerations Regarding EMDR Therapy

While EMDR is a highly effective therapy, it is important to be aware of the following:

  • Emotional Intensity: Processing traumatic memories can be emotionally intense. It is essential to have a therapist who is skilled in EMDR and capable of providing a safe and supportive environment.

  • Readiness: Not everyone is ready for EMDR therapy. The therapist will assess whether the client has the necessary resources and stability to engage in this type of treatment.

  • Integration: The insights and changes from EMDR sessions may take time to integrate fully into daily life. Continued therapy and support may be necessary to maintain progress.

  • Temporary Discomfort: Some individuals may experience temporary discomfort or heightened emotions during and after sessions. These are generally temporary and diminish as processing continues.

What You Can Expect After EMDR Processing

After EMDR processing, individuals often report a significant reduction in the distress associated with traumatic memories. The memories may still exist, but they no longer hold the same emotional charge. Clients often experience an increased sense of control, improved mood, and better coping mechanisms. It is also common to gain new insights and perspectives on past experiences, leading to personal growth and resilience.

EMDR therapy offers a structured, effective approach to healing from various forms of trauma. By understanding the process and what to expect, individuals can embark on their healing journey with confidence and hope. If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of trauma, consider exploring EMDR therapy as a path to recovery.

Looking to learn more?

Book a free 15-minute consult here:


bottom of page