top of page
Dazzling Light

EMDR Therapy

What is EMDR?


 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment method that assists people in healing from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Per EMDRIA, EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. Utilizing an 8 Phase approach that includes history taking, developing resources and preparing the client, identifying targets, and processing the past, present and future aspects of the event, EMDR reduces the emotional pain, distress, and triggers from past events. EMDR incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. For more information about EMDR, please see EMDRIA and EMDR Institute, Inc.

How does EMDR work?

During a traumatic or stressful event, if our brains do not process information as expected, the experience may become locked in our brains and bodies. When a person becomes reminded (e.g., triggered) of the event from various memories, images, sounds, smells, or feelings it is as if they are going through the event for the first time, repeatedly. You may then begin to avoid reminders of the event, develop different negative beliefs about yourself, experience anxiety, depression, relational difficulties, and other interfering symptoms. 

After you and your EMDR trained clinician determine that this is a good treatment fit you will engage in the 8 phases of treatment. EMDR therapy involves focusing on the past, present, and future. You and your clinician will identify the past events that are connected to current distressing situations and symptoms. You will also identify the beliefs, skills, and responses that you want to have for positive future actions and responses. Eventually, no longer responding to past traumas from a place of pain, negative beliefs, and/or avoidance. Prior to processing, you and your clinician will increase your skills and resources to manage stressors and cope with emotions. 

 During the processing phase of EMDR therapy, you will focus on the identified target (e.g., emotionally distressing images, thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and beliefs) in short sets while also focusing on an external stimulus at the same time. After each set of BLS you will briefly describe what you experienced. The stimulus may be eye movements, tapping, or tones that move from left to right (e.g., bilateral stimulus or BLS). BLS assists in processing parts of the trauma, essentially “unlocking” them. This process is similar to natural memory consolidation that occurs during REM sleep. Your brain will move itself towards healing and create new positive associations from the past and you will process the memory and related disturbing feelings, body sensations, and beliefs.

Image by Hans-Peter Gauster

8 Phases of EMDR

EMDR is a therapy modality with a dynamic set of interventions. The EMDR therapist will move between phases throughout treatment, and there is no set amount of time that is spent on each phase. Treatment is tailored to the client. EMDR is not only the reprocessing/desensitization phase (Phase 4), but also includes learning about the client and their experiences, collaboratively identifying treatment goals, and ensuring safety, stability, and a toolbox of effective coping skills and resources. 

History and Treatment Planning

Client and Therapist work together to understand a client's history, identify traumatic events, and develop goals. The therapist will be identifying patterns of traumatic events as well as positive experiences. 


Therapist explains EMDR process and answers questions. The therapist will engage the client in developing coping skills and resources for use in and out of therapy. The resources and coping skill development phase allows the client to become acclimated to the dual attention stimulation. 


Once Phase 4 is complete, the client will strengthen a positive belief about themselves that is associated with the event/traumatic experience.​

Body Scan

The client will scan their body while holding the targeted event and their positive belief in mind. If any disturbance, distress, or is noted, these sensations are reprocessed, as in phase 4. This phase is completed until no distress is noticed. 


The therapist will identify the first event to reprocess during the session. This is identified through reviewing the history and treatment plan. The therapist will assess baseline measures of current distress and beliefs the client is experiencing regarding the targeted event. 


At the end of every reprocessing session, the client and therapist work together to ensure the client is in a calm state and safe place. The clinician will engage the client to utilize resources developed in the preparation phase. 


Client will utilize dual attention to think about the traumatic event with bilateral stimulation. New thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations will emerge. The therapist will guide the client through the reprocessing phase, taking breaks to check in on processing and assessing the client's progress. 


 Each new EMDR sessions starts with a review of the reprocessing work. The therapist will ask the client to share thoughts, memories, and experiences between sessions. Then the client will gather current distress levels related to the target memory to begin the next desensitization session. 

Image of a woman sitting on wooden steps, throwing a hat. Discover how EMDR therapy benefits individuals seeking healing and relief from various concerns, such as trauma, anxiety, phobias, and more.Image by Jade Destiny

What is the goal of EMDR?

After processing different memories and experiences, when you remember the past event or experiences, they will not have the same charge or impact. EMDR cannot erase the memories, but can make them less upsetting and overwhelming. You will also will experience less physiological reactions. Check out this resource from EMDRIA to learn more about what it is like to experience EMDR as a client.

Who can benefit from EMDR?

EMDR can be utilized with people of all ages. EMDR may be utilized as a treatment for people who have experienced traumatic, overwhelming or stressful events. Many different things are thought of as trauma ranging from physical or sexual abuse to verbal/emotional abuse or witnessing violence, experiencing neglect, or existing in high stress environments. It is also a treatment option for: anxiety, panic, phobias/fears, negative beliefs or low self-esteem. 

Therapists that Specialize in EMDR

Dr. Beth Marnix

Beth Marnix, Psy.D., LCP, HSPP, LP

Therapy in Illinois, Texas, Indiana, and PSYPACT states

Let's rediscover your Bright Light.

bottom of page