Understanding EMDR Therapy – What to Expect During Your Sessions

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, also known as EMDR, is a type of psychotherapy that has been proven to be effective for treating emotional trauma. If you are considering EMDR therapy, you may be wondering what to expect from your sessions. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of EMDR and what you can expect during your therapy sessions.

1. What Happens During EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro. She realized that moving her eyes side to side while thinking of something distressing actually lowered her distress level. Over the next several decades, her theory was heavily researched and is now practiced around the world. It’s commonly known as a form of treatment for trauma, but is now effective for many mental health concerns. Although there is a lot of flexibility using this therapy approach, there are specific protocols that counselors need to follow.

EMDR therapy is a holistic, client-centered approach to psychotherapy. It focuses on helping clients process and heal from traumatic experiences by reprocessing the way their brains store and retrieve the memories associated with those experiences. While traditional talk therapy focuses on discussing emotions and experiences, EMDR works by utilizing bilateral stimulation, which can include eye movements, hand taps, or sounds, to stimulate the brain’s information processing system. This enables clients to access and process traumatic memories that have previously been suppressed or blocked.

Every night while you sleep, your brain’s information processing center powers on to process memories from that day. Your brain looks for helpful, adaptive information to store for future use and typically dumps the rest. This is what occurs when memories are processed and stored in the proper way. When you experience something overwhelming or traumatic, your brain may not process that memory appropriately. Therefore, the negative emotions, negative beliefs, images, and negative physical sensations are frozen in time in your brain. In the future when you experience something reminiscent of that traumatic experience, your fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered. You might even feel like you’re reliving that event all over again in the present moment. Unfortunately, these experiences can eventually lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns if untreated.

2. What Happens During EMDR?

During EMDR reprocessing sessions, your therapist will use bilateral stimulation (BLS) to activate your brain’s information processing center. This is done by eye movements back and forth, tapping, audio, and/or vibrations. Accessing this while being awake, allows you to reprocess traumatic memories in the healthy, adaptive way all other memories are processed. This removes the emotional charge to traumatic memories and keeps those experiences from being triggered in the future. Your brain will pull all of the helpful, adaptive, and positive information from that memory and dump the negative parts. EMDR does not remove or erase memories, it simply reprocesses them so you can learn from that experience.

EMDR therapy usually begins with an assessment by your therapist, where you will discuss your thoughts, emotions, and history, as well as any negative experiences that have impacted your life. In your therapy sessions. This will help to activate the parts of the brain that are responsible for processing traumatic experiences and allowing you to reprocess them in a healthier way.

3. How Long Does EMDR Therapy Take?

The length of EMDR therapy varies depending on the client’s specific needs and their personal goals for therapy. While some clients may only need a few sessions, others may require longer treatment. EMDR sessions typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. As you progress through therapy, you and your therapist will work together to monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan as necessary.

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4. What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating a range of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and addiction, among others. EMDR therapy helps clients view their traumatic experiences in a new light, resulting in decreased emotional distress and a greater sense of control over their thoughts and feelings. In addition to treating trauma, EMDR therapy has also been used to improve self-esteem, promote personal growth, and enhance performance in areas such as sports, academia, and business.

5. Is EMDR Therapy Right for Me?

If you are experiencing symptoms of emotional distress related to trauma, EMDR therapy may be a good option for you. However, not everyone is a good candidate for EMDR therapy. Before beginning therapy, it is important to talk to a qualified mental health professional who can assess your needs and help you decide if EMDR therapy is the right choice for you.


If you are considering EMDR therapy, it is important to know what to expect from your sessions. EMDR therapy is a highly effective treatment for trauma and other related conditions, and it offers many benefits to clients who are struggling with emotional distress. As you prepare for your therapy sessions, remember that every individual experience is unique and that your therapist will be there to guide you through the process and help you achieve your personal goals. By staying committed to your treatment, you can experience greater emotional healing and a renewed sense of hope for the future.

Want To Know More?

If you’ve been interested in learning more EMDR therapy we’re here to help you. Our trained and experienced EMDR therapists would be happy to setup a Complimentary 15 Minute Phone Call to see if EMDR Therapy is the right fit for you and your therapy goals.

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