How EMDR Therapy Works

EMDR therapy is administered in phases, with an emphasis on disturbing past events and associated memories, as well as on situations that cause distress. EMDR therapists provide a stimulus that alternates between the left and right sides of the brain, stimulating both hemispheres. During the stimulus, the patient focuses on the traumatic event that has caused suffering. EMDR therapists will gradually direct the patient’s thoughts to positive ones, in an attempt to diminish the effect of negative thoughts or emotions.

EMDR has an effect on how the brain processes information. This approach is used to help reduce the negative impact that traumatic images and memories have on an individual.

How to Make the Most of Your EMDR Therapy

If you have received or plan to receive EMDR therapy, follow the steps and guidelines given by your therapist to ensure that your therapy plan is as effective as possible.

Stress Reduction Techniques: in the days following an EMDR therapy session, try one or several stress reduction or relaxation techniques as an integral part of your EMDR plan. These techniques are an effective way to supplement your EMDR therapy.

For example, try visualization. Imagine relaxing somewhere that is calming to you, like in a sunny meadow or on the ocean. Try to use as many senses as possible, like the scent of the earth or water, the warm sun on your body or the sound of the seagulls and the crashing of waves. It may be helpful to wear loose, comfortable clothing and do this in a quiet place.

You can also try other stress reduction techniques to supplement EMDR, such as:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Music and art therapy

The Importance of Relaxation with EMDR

It is important that you relax while undergoing EMDR therapy, particularly after each therapy session has ended. It takes time for the therapy to wear off. Your muscles in your eyes will likely be tired, and you will need to rest your brain as well. It can take about 30 minutes for you to fully regain a sense of your surroundings after EMDR. Be cautious. Give yourself plenty of time to complete even basic activities after your therapy, including small things like crossing the road. Some individuals find it helpful to take the remainder of the day off after a session.

Follow Up

Of course, another important way to ensure the efficacy of EMDR therapy is to follow up with your therapist. Don’t assume that because you have been through one or two sessions that you are healed. You need to see your treatment through to the end of your program.


WebMD: EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing:


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