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About EMDR Therapy

What Is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing treatment or EMDR is an evidence-based mental health treatment originally developed to treat the effects of trauma. A significant amount of clinical research has shown this form of therapy to be dramatically beneficial to people with trauma disorders. In many cases, progress is made in weeks or months which would ordinarily take years using conventional talk therapy alone.

EMDR therapy makes a real difference in the lives of people living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related issues. As a trauma-informed program, The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center provides EMDR as it is a proven, evidence-based therapy that fits our trauma therapy modality perfectly and delivers real results.

How Does it Work?

EMDR treatment focuses on three distinct periods in the patient’s life—past, present, and future. The therapist or facilitator works to understand the traumatic experiences the patient had, which gave rise to the disturbing memories and symptoms they are having in the present. The patient is also given new ways of coping with feelings and a change in perspective as treatment progresses. Progress is monitored throughout the treatment, with the patient self-reporting and keeping a log along with the therapists’ observations and notes.

It’s a very interactive and participatory form of mental health treatment that breaks the mold of conventional talk therapy approaches. These factors are a large part of why it is so effective, especially with trauma patients who haven’t made satisfactory progress with conventional talk therapy alone. A typical session lasts between 60-90 minutes and involves talk therapy combined with different sensory exercises and attention to the body and mind. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing essentially work by breaking the trauma response to disturbing memories and “reprogramming” the mind using different senses. Negative beliefs are replaced with positive, empowering beliefs, and distress is defused with healthy coping mechanisms.

The 8-phase EMDR Treatment Approach

EMDR therapy unfolds in 8 phases. These phases help equip the clinician with the knowledge of the patient’s history, empower them with tools for managing emotional distress, and using desensitization and reprocessing to root out negative thoughts and responses to past trauma.

Here is a brief description of each of the 8 phases:


The therapist learns the patient’s history, explores their needs and assesses their readiness for treatment, and builds trust.


The therapist helps the patient develop tools for handling emotional distress so they can manage their feelings as the process continues.


This is the assessment phase where the patient accesses each memory and begins to carefully reprocess it.


In this phase, the focus is on desensitizing the patient by using eye movements, sounds, or taps as somatic tools.


The installation phase is where the client concentrates on building positive beliefs to counteract their negative self-talk and feelings of powerlessness.


In Phase 6, the patient turns their attention to the body to identify any remaining physical sensations of stress or tension so they can be targeted and processed.


Closure happens at the conclusion of each session. Self-calming techniques are used to restore equilibrium and ensure the patient leaves the session feeling better than when they started.


Each session begins with a reevaluation. This helps the patient’s awareness of the process and allows them to accurately gauge their progress over time.

What Else Does EMDR Work For?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is specifically designed for post-traumatic stress disorder patients. Therefore, most of the research into its efficacy is centered on PTSD. It is a well-established evidence-based treatment for PTSD shown to deliver results that are difficult to achieve in any other way. That said, there are examples of successful interventions with EMDR for other mental health disorders, and research is exploring these avenues. There is evidence that it can help resolve other trauma-related issues as well as conditions like body dysmorphic disorder, personality disorders, performance anxiety, and dissociative disorders.

EMDR Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There are a number of evidence-based treatment methods that can help with PTSD. They range from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to pharmacotherapy (medication) to self-care and wellness practices. But EMDR has thus far proven to be one of the most effective treatments for PTSD of all, often delivering remarkable results in weeks or months whereas other treatments often take years. The most effective treatment plans tend to include more than one element working in concert. In combination, they can have a synergistic effect which provides the patient with more relief and resolution than they might have otherwise experienced.


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