What Does an EMDR Session Look Like?

Procedures of EMDR Sessions

First, the client and the therapist work together to collect basic information about the traumatic experience. The most disturbing part of the incident is identified and becomes the processing target. Example: image of rapist’s face. Next the negative belief connected to the trauma is identified. Example: “I’m dirty, I’m ruined for life.” Next a positive, preferred belief is named. Example: “I’m safe now, it’s over, I can move on with my life.” Next, the client is asked to rate (on a scale of 1-7) how true the positive belief feels when paired with the target image. Usually, the number is very low, the positive belief does not feel very true at this point. Client is then asked to name the feelings, emotions that the target memory elicits, and to rate the associated distress level (on a scale of 0-10). Example: Target memory of being raped elicits fear and shame with a distress level of 9. Client is then asked to name where this target memory is experienced in the body. Example: solar plexus. This completes the procedures of EMDR sessions information gathering portion of the session. The therapist has a worksheet that she follows in order to gather this information, exactly as stated above. The next part of the procedures of an EMDR session focuses on the desensitization process . The client is asked to hold the image of the target memory, the negative belief and the body area in their awareness. While the client is doing that, the therapist guides the client’s eyes to move rapidly back and forth, by following the therapists’ fingers. (This is also called “bilateral stimulation”) This movement is done in sets. Sets may last from a few seconds to a minute or so. During each set the client is instructed to “just notice whatever comes up, without controlling the experience in any way. After a few sets clients usually report a significant decrease in distress level, as though the memory is fading away, or no longer has an emotional charge. The target memory is completely processed when recall of the image no longer brings up disturbing emotions and the client reports a zero on the distress scale. At this point, the client and therapist move onto the installation phase , this is the point where the new, positive belief is installed into the neural pathways, using bilateral stimulation. When the client reports a 7 the scale measuring the truth of the new positive belief, the session is complete. Contributed by Beth Burton Krahn, MA, RCC  

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