EMDR: The Ultimate Guide

Do you or someone you know have trouble getting over a painful event or feeling? Maybe you believed you had worked through it, but it still affects your life. Or you may feel stuck in your current job, relationships, or daily routine and have feelings of not being good enough or not worth much. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to seek professional help for your mental health.

The COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 brought attention to the importance of mental health, and many people are now seeking therapy for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. One of the most well-known forms of treatment for these conditions is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

EMDR: What is it?

EMDR is a therapy technique that psychologist Francine Shapiro created during the 1980s. Its purpose is to help individuals reduce the negative emotions and other symptoms caused by traumatic memories. The therapy involves recalling a traumatic event while the therapist guides the patient through some form of bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, sounds, or taps. 

The theory behind EMDR is that the stimulation helps to “unfreeze” the traumatic memory and allows the patient to process and integrate it more positively. It was primarily developed to treat symptoms of PTSD.

The premise behind EMDR is that bilateral stimulation helps to “unfreeze” traumatic memories, allowing for more adaptive processing and integration. It is a therapy that helps people with traumatic memories, like those that cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), feel better.

The 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

There are eight separate stages to the EMDR treatment, which has a strong track record of healing trauma and other mental illnesses. A therapist will work closely with the patient to ensure that each phase is finished and personalized to the patient’s particular requirements since each stage is crucial to the therapy’s overall effectiveness. They are:

  1. History Taking and Treatment Planning

Your therapist will ask about your early childhood, family history, and important events that have significantly impacted or hurt you.

Negative experiences can be anything from general bad things that happen in life to horrifying things that happened recently or a long time ago. You and your therapist will create a list of experiences, such as:

  • Ridicule
  • Humiliation by friends, relatives, neighbors, peers, or parents
  • Bullying
  • Sexual and emotional abuse
  • Rejection
  • Death of a close loved one
  • Unpleasant divorces
  • Extreme physical abuse
  • Road accidents
  • Anger from parents
  • Traumatic combat or experiences
  • Any other significantly negative or traumatic life experience

The goal is to figure out what happened in your past that made you have such negative feelings about yourself or the world. When we have a terrible experience, we often think badly about ourselves. These beliefs can be varied, such as:


  • never good enough
  • a loser or failure
  • the cause of my wife/child/husband’s death
  • not trustworthy 
  • living in a horrible or dangerous world
  • not safe with those close to me
  • not loved

Even though remembering these things may not be pleasant, when EMDR therapy is done right, the process is helpful. Besides, as you work through one particular experience, such as a near-death car crash, it will have a generalizing healing effect on all other occasions you have suffered.

  1. Preparation

During this phase of EMDR therapy, the therapist will explain the process and address any concerns or questions you may have. You and your therapist will also work together to build a safe and effective therapeutic relationship and come up with specific ways to deal with any emotional problems that might come up. 

Some people may need a long time in the first and second stages of EMDR therapy before they feel ready to move on to the other steps.

  1. Assessing the Trauma

During this part of EMDR therapy, you work with a therapist to find the traumatic event that makes you feel bad. This process might include figuring out what kind of trauma it was—like a sexual assault or the death of a loved one—the main image that comes to mind and how the traumatic event affects your life now.

During this phase, you may also be given a positive belief to counteract the bad feelings caused by the trauma, such as “You are much safer now than you were before.

  1. Desensitization

During the desensitization phase of EMDR therapy, the patient thinks about the traumatic memory while doing eye movements or other exercises called bilateral stimulation (BLS). You will then share any new thoughts that may have emerged during this process.

The therapist will use set protocols to decide what each set of BLS will focus on and when to move forward. Usually, the material that comes up during the session will be the focus of the next group of BLS. This process continues until the patient reports that the memory is no longer distressing.

  1. Installation

EMDR therapy has a stage called “installing positive beliefs.” During this stage, the therapist will help you replace negative beliefs with positive ones. It could mean, for example, helping a patient who was beaten up as a child realize that, as an adult, they can protect themselves from similar situations.

This is done until you report a reduction in your distress and an increase in positive emotions after each session.

  1. Physical Body Scan

In the sixth phase of EMDR therapy, you must pay close attention to how your body reacts to the traumatic event. It includes paying attention to positive cognition and identifying any lingering physical discomfort. If the patient tells the therapist they are not feeling well physically, they will use standard techniques like bilateral stimulation (BLS) to help.

  1. Closure

During the seventh stage, the therapist will teach you various stress reduction techniques. They will also ask you to write down any problems between sessions and advise you on how to handle them.

  1. Reevaluation

In this last step of EMDR therapy, the therapist will determine how well the treatment worked and decide if more sessions or different treatments are needed. If necessary, the therapist will plan follow-up sessions.

EMDR Therapy Tools

In EMDR therapy, different tools help clients deal with traumatic memories and lessen the effects of PTSD and other mental illnesses. These may include:

  • Eye movements or other bilateral stimulation techniques to activate the brain’s natural information processing
  • Talk therapies
  • Relaxation techniques to help address negative thinking patterns
  • Homework such as journaling or art therapy
  • Trauma-focused therapy— such as cognitive-behavioral and prolonged exposure therapy—helps clients process their traumatic experiences.

The cost of EMDR therapy

The cost of EMDR therapy is not standard, but on average, each session costs between $100 and $300 and lasts about an hour. The total cost will depend on factors such as the number of sessions needed, the location, and the therapist’s hourly rate.

The total cost can be anywhere from $800 to $2,500, but the exact number of sessions required may vary from person to person. Remote EMDR therapy, usually done through online platforms, is usually less expensive than therapy done in person. The cost per session is typically around $150–250.

It is worth noting that the sooner the therapy begins to produce positive results, the lower the overall cost will be. It is because the treatment may show improvement in as few as three sessions. Many private insurance plans cover EMDR therapy sessions, so it’s essential to check with your insurance company to see your options, primarily if you use online telehealth.

Online EMDR

EMDR therapy can also be done online with a therapist, through a guided program, or via video chat. This approach, known as online EMDR, is more cost-effective even though it offers the same elements and stages of EMDR as in-person sessions. It’s a good option for people who can’t attend in-person sessions because of where they live or other reasons. Online EMDR also gives you the freedom to choose when to do it, and it can be an excellent option for people who prefer the privacy and comfort of their homes.

Link to Online EMDR website:

The Bottomline

EMDR therapy is an excellent way to treat trauma because it takes less time and costs less than traditional talk therapy. For those who have struggled with other forms of therapy, it’s worthwhile to note that EMDR has been proven to be a quick and efficient method of treating trauma.

It’s important to note that the name “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” can be misleading, as the treatment involves more than just eye movements. The therapy consists of eight phases, not all involving eye movements. It’s essential to get help from trained professionals to ensure you’re getting the proper EMDR treatment. Contact us for expert EMDR therapy sessions.