What to Expect at your first EMDR Therapy Session

Therapists face a lot of big challenges when they are trying to treat patients who have been traumatized. It can be really difficult to reach a patient who has been through a negative life-altering experience. For any chance of treatment success, it takes a lot of time and patience on behalf of the therapist and the patient.

When it comes to treating your trauma-related mental or emotional disorder, you will soon realize your therapist has a lot of treatment options in their arsenal. One option that some therapists seem to prefer for the treatment of depression, stress disorders, anxiety, and even addiction is called EMDR Therapy.

In the sections below, we will define and describe EMDR and hopefully give you a clear idea of what to expect during your first EMDR therapy session.

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, usually referred to as EMDR Therapy, is an evidence-based therapy option. It focuses on using sensory input to help people deal with and recover from certain forms of trauma and emotional distress.

EMDR therapy is delivered in eight very specific chronological phases. These phases include:

  • History and Treatment Planning
  • Preparation
  • Assessment
  • Desensitization
  • Installation
  • Body Scan
  • Closure
  • Reevaluation

All of these phases can be covered in as few as three sessions or as many as several months. It really depends on the patient and the depth of their trauma and emotional distress.

Read a more detailed explanation of the 8 phases of EMDR Therapy Here

The Goal of EMDR Therapy

The primary goal of EMDR Therapy is to unblock the patient’s emotional processes so they can recall and deal with their trauma, and eventually move on from it.

As for the actual therapeutic process, EMDR Therapy uses bilateral stimulation. The bilateral stimulation can involve the prompting of side-to-side rapid eye movements with an object, hand tapping, or audio stimulation.

The EMDR concept is based on having the patient focus on a stimulus (usually an object or EMDR light bar) that is moving left to right while discussing a traumatic event. While the bilateral stimulation serves as a distraction, it opens up the patient’s mind and makes thinking about the traumatic event a lot more comfortable for them. It also increases the ability of the patient to recall such events much more clearer.

The rapid eye movement that comes from the EMDR process is the same rapid eye movement you experience during REM sleep. During REM sleep, your brain is operating at optimal levels as it processes information from the day.

Rapid eye movement is indicative of the brain processing information at the highest level possible. In theory, the faster the eyes are moving, the faster the brain is processing. That is what is necessary to break the barriers you might feel regarding recalling and dealing with the traumatic event that is causing your distress.

Once your therapist is able to help you break through your mental and emotional barriers to get to the trauma, you would then have the basis for the resolution of your distress. You would close out your EMDR therapy by learning to cope with the trauma, and finally getting the closure you need to move forward in peace.

What to Expect at your first EMDR Therapy Session

As we indicated above, your EMDR therapy session could take anywhere from three sessions to several months of sessions. The process is complete when you feel empowered to take back your life from the trauma that has been controlling it.

Keeping in mind that each EMDR session will last between 60 and 90 minutes, you probably won’t get too far into the process during your first session. However, it is reasonable to expect that you might hit on the following four areas. Remember, timeframes will vary by patient.

1. Getting to Know Your Therapist: This is your opportunity to connect with your therapist. You will be free to ask questions about your therapist or the EMDR process. For you, you should be looking to make sure you feel comfortable in the treatment environment.

2. Talking About Your Childhood: At this point, you have started Phase 1 of the EMDR process. Discussing your childhood is important because that is typically where we all experience the most traumatic experiences in our lives. While some questions about your childhood might make you a little uncomfortable, answering such questions will start getting easier as you progress through the EMDR process.

3. Discussion of Mental Predispositions: In order to create an effective treatment plan, your therapist will need to know about your belief systems. If you have negative beliefs ingrained in your mind, they need to know what those are so they can try to break them down. This is the time you need to be open and honest.

4. Start Digging at Core Issues: By the end of the first session, you should be discussing the sources of your distress. This might include sharing negative feelings or talking about bad memories. Before you leave the first session, your therapist will likely have tools to help you walk away from the first session without the negativity.

Results to expect

After concluding the EMDR therapeutic process, you should feel a great sense of relief. While you might want to continue with a little traditional counseling to smooth the rough edges, you should have a more positive outlook on life and a lot less stress which you need to manage.

For a very thorough explanation of EMDR Therapy watch this video from the EMDR International Association.

What types of memories & past events will they want you to recall

When you start therapy, the presumption is you are having very specific difficulties in your life. Trauma and stress are likely what lies at the core of your emotional and mental distress.

As for the potential causes of your distress, it’s likely coming from bad memories of traumatic events that have occurred in your life. While your specific traumatic event or events are very personal to you, here is a short list of common traumatic events that can cause mental/emotional problems:

  • The sudden death of a family member or loved one
  • Witnessing a violent accident or crime
  • Sexual, emotional, or mental abuse
  • Involvement in a natural disaster
  • Loss of a job
  • Severe injury to your body
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Remember, this is a short list of possible traumatic events that typically cause mental/emotional distress. For you, your distress came from whatever personal trauma you felt when something bad happened to or around you. Please contact Serin Center to find out which therapy would be best for your personal situation.

How EMDR Therapy light bars work

While a therapist could attempt to hold and move an actual object side to side to initiate rapid eye movement, they actually make light bars that can manage that process.

EMDR light bars are programmable. Your therapist would have access to controls that would dictate light pattern movements and the speed of the movements. As the patient, your job would be to concentrate on following the light while you discuss your trauma. The real value of an EMDR light bar is it provides stimulation with a consistent pattern and speed, which makes the process more effective.

EMDR Therapy At Serin Center

Looking for EMDR Therapy? Our integrative treatment plans allow us to resolve complex difficulties rather than having a narrow range of treatment options. Now offering EMDR as one of our Teletherapy services so you can get the help you need from the safety of your own home.

Can EMDR Therapy Help With Anxiety

In recent years, EMDR Therapy has been gaining recognition among both patients and doctors. It addresses both the emotional and mental aspects of anxiety in a natural therapeutic way.

Can EMDR Therapy Be Used for Depression?

For many people, the answer is: Yes. EMDR is a type of therapy aimed at helping patients to overcome memories of past traumatic experiences that may still be causing distress.

Serin Center

If you are located in the Metro Phoenix Arizona area, Serin Center has two offices located in Peoria, AZ, and Scottsdale, AZ that can provide testing for Dyscalculia and provide Independent Educational Evaluations. Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

Our educational evaluations can provide diagnoses and generate specific goals and treatments to help your child succeed. Completed in Peoria & Scottsdale AZ