The Three-Pronged Protocol of EMDR


In this phase, the therapist and the client work together to focus on distressing memories from the past that are contributing to the client's present issues. The goal is to process these memories to a point where they are no longer distressing


Here, the therapist helps the client to address current situations that cause distress. Together, they identify triggers in the present that might be linked to past unprocessed memories and work on developing strategies to handle these situations more effectively.


In this part of the protocol, the focus is on encouraging the client to develop a positive vision for the future. The therapist and the client work together to build skills and attitudes that will help the client to approach future challenges in a healthy and positive way.

Understanding EMDR Therapy: Healing Through Targeted Memory Processing

In the evolving landscape of psychotherapy, a modality that has garnered substantial attention and empirical support is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Originated by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, this psychotherapy approach has become a primary tool in the treatment of trauma and PTSD. As a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) specializing in EMDR, I wish to elucidate the underpinnings of EMDR therapy, detail the 8-phased approach to treatment, and outline the profound benefits it can offer to individuals dealing with the repercussions of traumatic experiences.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is grounded in the adaptive information processing model, which posits that our brains have an inherent ability to process and integrate traumatic information into a healthy and adaptive state. Sometimes, traumatic events can overwhelm this system, causing distressing memories to remain unprocessed. EMDR facilitates the reprocessing of these memories, fostering healing and integration.

The EMDR 8-Phase Approach

1. History-Taking and Treatment Planning

In the initial phase, the therapist works collaboratively with the client to gather a comprehensive history and formulate a treatment plan that is attuned to the client’s individual needs.

2. Preparation

This phase focuses on building a strong therapeutic alliance and preparing the client for EMDR processing. Skills for emotional self-regulation are imparted to ensure safety and stability during the therapy.

3. Assessment

During the assessment phase, the therapist helps the client identify specific target memories for EMDR processing, along with associated negative beliefs, emotional disturbances, and physical sensations.

4. Desensitization

Here, the therapist guides the client in bilateral stimulation, often through guided eye movements, while the client holds in mind the target memory and the negative belief. The goal is to desensitize the distress associated with the memory.

5. Installation

In this phase, the focus shifts to installing a positive, adaptive belief, replacing the earlier held negative belief, fostering a healthier perspective towards the self.

6. Body Scan

The body scan phase involves identifying and processing any residual physical tension or discomfort linked to the target memory, promoting full integration.

7. Closure

Closure ensures the client returns to a state of equilibrium at the end of each session, utilizing self-soothing strategies developed in the preparation phase.

8. Reevaluation

In the final phase, the therapist and the client collaboratively review the progress made and decide on the future course of action, considering any remaining targets or newly emerged areas for treatment.

The Benefits of EMDR Therapy

EMDR stands out for its unique approach and the array of benefits it offers, including:

  • Efficacy and Efficiency: Numerous studies validate the effectiveness of EMDR in treating trauma and PTSD, often in fewer sessions compared to other therapy modalities.
  • Holistic Healing: EMDR fosters holistic healing, addressing the cognitive, emotional, and somatic dimensions of distress.
  • Empowerment: Through the reprocessing of traumatic memories, clients often report feeling empowered and regained control over their lives.
  • Reduction of Symptoms: Clients frequently experience a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and intrusive thoughts post-EMDR therapy.
  • Non-Verbal Approach: Although verbal engagement is a part of EMDR, a significant segment of the work occurs on a non-verbal plane, which can be especially beneficial for clients with pre-verbal trauma or difficulty articulating their experiences.

As a certified EMDR therapist, I find myself continuously in awe of the resilience and transformative healing journeys I witness in my practice. EMDR, grounded in robust theoretical foundations and supported by extensive research, offers a compassionate and efficient pathway to healing for individuals wrestling with the after-effects of trauma. It is a testament to the intrinsic capacity of the human psyche to heal, integrate, and forge a path of resilience and well-being.


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