Hope For The Journey

What is EMDR

In the last few years, the term “EMDR Therapy” has gained people’s interest and awareness. It even received a royal endorsement! Prince Harry acknowledged that he has participated in EMDR therapy in his own trauma recovery. It’s marketed as an evidence-based tool. It’s used to treat our response to trauma and other adverse life experiences. EMDR therapy may seem brand new. But, the basis of EMDR was discovered in 1987 by Francine Shapiro. She noticed that her upsetting thoughts seemed to lessen after she moved her eyes back and forth in a park.

 But what exactly IS EMDR Therapy?

EMDR Therapy is available across Texas. Hope For The Journey is a trauma-specialized counseling group. We have offices in Austin, Texas and Round Rock, Texas. Our team is happy to provide EMDR therapy online for your convenience.

EMDR Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy is an approach that shifts how our brain stores and heals from traumatic memories.

When we experience something scary or disturbing our brain often doesn’t store it in a helpful way. This causes our memories to become frozen. We get stuck on the original thoughts, feelings, sounds, and body sensations from the event.  

Some examples of this are when you find yourself always thinking about that frightening thing that happened to you. That thing that makes you feel angry, scared, or even bad about yourself. If you were sexually assaulted, you might feel guilty and believe that the abuse what your fault. It might even feel like you’re forced to relive that situation. The thoughts and feelings that surround that memory may feel very intense.

It may be hard for you to live in the present because your thoughts and feelings feel so stuck in the past. EMDR therapy helps your brain move that memory into a more functional place so that you can “move on.”

EMDR therapy allows you to “reprocess” or re-think a memory or situation from the past

But, at the same time, you are aware that you are safe and grounded in the therapy office in the present. The reprocessing causes the brain to store the memory in a more helpful (adaptive) place. In the end, this means that the memory will no longer bring up the negative emotions or thoughts that it once did. It’s possible that it will no longer be disturbing to you at all! 

EMDR helps memories to process or feel settled and understandable. At Hope For The Journey, our therapists are happy to provide EMDR Therapy. We support folks in Austin, Texas, and Round Rock, Texas, as well as all over Texas with Online Therapy.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

EMDR Phase 1: History Taking

EMDR works in eight phases. The first phase is history taking and is like many methods of talk therapy. This is where you and your therapist will begin to build a trusting relationship.  

The goal during this phase is to gather info about your past. After doing so, you can explore how it relates to your current concerns. In this way, your EMDR therapist will start to get a sense of what target memory or memories might have gotten “stuck.” And, are now causing your current day symptoms. A target memory is a memory or situation that relates to the negative symptoms that you’re experiencing in the present. A target memory is what you will be guided to reprocess in time.  

EMDR Phase 2: Preparation

The therapist then further prepares you for what is to come during the preparation phase. They will make sure you have a clear understanding and realistic expectations for what the process will be like. Healthy coping skills are also taught and practiced as well. You are then introduced to the tools and methods that you will be using during the reprocessing.

The preparation phase is one of the most important and can take the longest amount of time. This is particularly if you have more than one trauma in your past or you have any dissociation symptoms. Our goal here is to make sure you can handle what may come up during EMDR sessions. All without needing to “numb out” or dissociate. We also want to make sure that you feel safe and stable in the counseling space. This also includes the ability to self-soothe outside of the session.  

EMDR Phase 3: Assessment

The third phase is the assessment phase. This is where we try to “light up” the painful memory and get a sense of where we are. This starts by addressing how distressing the memory is. Plus, how it makes you feel about yourself as a person, and what body sensations and emotions it evokes. This is often one of the most uncomfortable moments of treatment. But, remember that the preparation phase has left you well-equipped to handle it.   

In the assessment phase, you’re guided to think about the target memory. Then, you identify a related negative belief that you have about yourself. You then identify a positive statement that you would rather believe about yourself. Finally, your therapist will ask you to gauge how disturbing the target memory is for you; on a scale of 0 to 10. The goal of the next phase is to get that reported disturbance level down to a 0. Then, releasing you from any reported distress!

EMDR Phase 4: Desensitization

The desensitization phase is where bilateral stimulation (BLS) starts. Bilateral stimulation is a key part of EMDR. It only means that something is going on that requires your attention to go from left to right. This could be something that you see, such as a light or ball moving back and forth. Or, an ongoing sound like clicking or snapping that moves from one ear to the other, or some sort of touch sensation. You’re instructed to think about the targeted traumatic memory. At the same time, your focus is also on the present back and forth.  

Paying attention to both things at once (the memory, and what is currently going on in the room) is called dual awareness. It’s a controlled way for you to think about your past traumatic memory. It is also a way to link it to positive memories that already exist. As you think about the memory, your brain begins to identify the related thoughts, feelings, images, or body sensations. Then, they pass on by. In time, you will come to helpful/positive conclusions on your own.

An often-used metaphor to describe this process is a car ride. Picture yourself going on a road trip and looking out the car window as the car is moving. The scenery is always changing. You come into contact with many things between your starting point and final destination. When you think of desensitization, your first starting point is your target memory and the related negative thoughts. Your final destination is when the memory no longer feels disturbing

EMDR Phase 5: Installation

Installation is the next phase. In this phase, dual awareness is used again. But, this time it’s used to help strengthen the positive belief you already identified in the assessment phase. Examples of a positive belief might be, “I am lovable,” “I am good enough,” or “I did the best I could.” The positive beliefs are specific to you and your situation. And, they allow you to see yourself in a better light. When your brain can connect a positive statement or belief to an unpleasant memory, you start to feel better

Examples of this could be that you feel more confident and less anxious or depressed. You might even find it easier to like yourself in a genuine way. The positive results will be clear in how you begin to interact with yourself and with others. Often, the quality of your relationships will improve. 

EMDR Phase 6: Body Scan

Stage 6 involves a Body Scan. One of the reasons EMDR is so thorough is that it looks at body sensations. You’re guided to notice any tension, tightness, or unusual sensations you may feel in your body. Bilateral stimulation is again used to further explore and relieve any unpleasant sensations. It can also be used to strengthen any positive sensations that are noticed and reported

We know that trauma is often stored and processed in the body, not only in the mind. This is explained in The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk, as well as later in this article. The Body Scan looks for any remaining sensation related to the target memory.

EMDR Phase 7: Closure

At the end of each session (no matter how many phases you were able to complete that day), the EMDR therapist will close down the reprocessing. They will ensure that the client feels safe in the present. This might involve the visualization of putting anything unresolved into a container of some sort. Or, it might involve a coping or grounding skill that helps you to calm down and feel ready for the rest of your day

EMDR Phase 8: Re-Evaluation

The final stage of EMDR is Re-Evaluation. This is a vital phase that happens in the next session after reprocessing has occurred. You may leave the therapy room, but that doesn’t mean your brain is done processing. Re-Evaluation checks to see what is coming up for you about the memory now. Sometimes, this will mean that you’re done with this memory and ready to move on. But also, sometimes in-between sessions, more work will “float to the surface”. If so, you will feel distressed again when we revisit the memory in session. This distress will cue your therapist to resume desensitization. They will continue until the memory and all its associations in the brain are healed and at peace


How Does EMDR Therapy Affect Your Body? 

Not only does our brain remember traumatic events, but our bodies do as well. For example, you may have been in a car accident. If so, your body may tense up whenever you see headlights heading toward you on the road. Or, you may get a sinking feeling in your stomach. This is something that you may feel like you can’t control. EMDR therapy includes a phase that focuses on our physical response. This is called the body scan, or the sixth phase. During this phase, you are guided to recognize where trauma might be stored in your body. The same process of dual awareness is used to help your brain and body work together to release any unhelpful storage. This can cause you to physically feel lighter!

Once a memory is fully reprocessed; the client reports that the disturbance level is a 0. Then, they fully believe their positive cognition, and no uncomfortable or unusual body sensations are reported. The EMDR therapist will re-evaluate this at the next session before moving forward

Is EMDR Therapy the Same as Hypnosis? 

It is important to note that EMDR is very different from hypnosis. During EMDR therapy, you as the client are in control the whole time. Your EMDR therapist is not adding anything extra into your brain or taking anything out. But, let’s acknowledge that it can seem a little strange and take some time to get used to. It’s weird to be told to look back and forth at something

Your feedback is very important during this entire process. You should feel listened to by your therapist. By the time you start the reprocessing part, you and your therapist should have already gone over some skills to help you calm down if you get overwhelmed. As with any method of therapy, you have the option to stop or pause at any time during any of the phases of EMDR

How Long Does EMDR Therapy Take?

The length of treatment varies for each person. It is dependent on your goals and what kind of target memories you have. A person who wishes to reprocess a single traumatic incident may occur in 8-12 sessions, or sooner. It is true that EMDR therapy often takes less time than other methods of therapy. But, it is not a magic solution that shows results in an instant. A person who has experienced traumatic events over their lifetime may take longer. This may take months or even years to complete this process.

If you’re interested in getting started or would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Hope For The Journey. EMDR therapy should only be facilitated by clinicians who have training in it. All the therapists at Hope For The Journey are EMDR trained and would love to help you on your healing journey

Begin EMDR Therapy in Austin, TX, and Round Rock, TX

Starting EMDR therapy can be an effective solution in helping you overcome trauma. Our team of caring therapists can offer you support from our Austin, TX, or Round Rock, TX locations. To start your therapy journey, please follow these simple steps:
2. Meet with a caring therapist
3. Start overcoming past trauma with EMDR therapy.

Other Services Offered with Hope For the Journey

EMDR therapy isn’t the only service our team offers from our Round Rock and Austin locations. We also offer therapy for depression, domestic violence, sexual assault, and anger management. We are happy to offer our services to children, teens and young adults, men, couples, and the LGBTQ community. Feel free to learn more by contacting us or visiting our blog today!
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