What are the 8 Phases of EMDR?

Phases of EMDR

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is unlike other types of psychotherapy. Designed in the 1980s to help with healing trauma, EMDR is also an effective treatment for many other conditions. However, it is not focused on talk. Rather, EMDR relies on something called bilateral stimulation.

In a nutshell, both sides of the client’s brain are stimulated through eye movements, finger movements, tones, or taps. This induces a state similar to rapid eye movement sleep. In this state, you can better access and process painful memories without being triggered. To begin understanding what this means, it helps to know that EMDR involves 8 phases.

The 8 Phases of EMDR

Phase 1

As you might expect, the initial phase includes some basics, e.g.

Finding out why the client has chosen to come to EMDR therapy

Taking a history

Explaining the EMDR process

Learning more about the client’s trauma

Choosing which memories will be the initial focus

Phase 2

The client will have questions, and in Phase 2, they will get some answers. Details are doled out. Expectations are set. All the while, the therapist and client begin to form the type of trusting partnership they will need to ensure positive results.

Phase 3

They return to a deeper discussion of the memory or event that will be the primary focus. A major part of this process is identifying what is associated with the event. For example:





The therapist will then use two scales — Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) and Validity of Cognition — to set baseline measures. From there, they move on to Phases 4, 5, and 6 — the reprocessing phases.

Phase 4

Welcome to the desensitization phase. This may sound unusual, but it’s where the EMDR truly earns its stellar reputation.

The client focuses on the traumatic memory 

The therapist begins actions like sounds, tapping, or finger movements

While this happens, the client engages in side-to-side eye movements until the SUD scale is reduced to zero

Phase 5

Once desensitization is attained, it’s time for installation. This is when positive thoughts are “installed” in place of negative memories and sensations. Installment continues until the positive belief feels 100% true.

Phase 6

Before moving to the closing phases, the client is asked to perform a body scan — head to toe, inside and out. If any disturbance is lingering, the therapist continues with the bilateral stimulation while the client focuses on the remaining sensations. Once the disturbances are cleared, they move on to phases centered on closure, safety, and re-evaluation.

Phase 7

No reprocessing sessions are complete without closure. After the previous phases, the client will need to be safely returned to a state of calmness or stablization. The closure is considered attained when interactions with the therapist:

Remove all bodily disturbances

The SUD scale is at 0

The VOC scale is at 7

Phase 8

Phase 8 takes place as a new EMDR session begins. The therapist checks that the three criteria described above in Phase 7 remain intact. This is where one session connects to the next. This is also where new areas of treatment are discussed and targeted. The treatment moves forward from there, with EMDR usually lasting from 6 to 12 sessions.

Making Sense of All of This

Therapy is a time-proven choice for your overall well-being. It will usually consist of talking as the main source of interaction — and this is part of its power. With EMDR, however, the variables change dramatically, and you are probably wondering what this might look and feel like. How is EMDR so effective? Our qualified and competent therapists have the answers you seek and the EMDR experience you may need. Connect with our office to discuss more about your situation and the options available to you.