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The overall goal of EMDR is to achieve the most profound and comprehensive treatment effects possible. Therefore, it is important for the therapist to co-partner with you and explore your life story in order to understand the bigger picture of the problems you are experiencing.

During the first phase your therapist will use a history taking questionnaire and/or other tools:

  • to obtain the necessary background information to better understand you and your specific problem/s
  • to identify past events that have contributed to the current problem/s and needs further processing
  • to identify specific aspects of current situations that trigger negative responses
  • to identify future needs
  • to discern whether EMDR treatment is suitable for you and
  • to identify clear targets (from both positive and negative events in you life) that can be used in the process of helping you effectively overcome the problem/s. These targets include the event(s) from the past that created the problem, the present situations that cause distress, and the key skills or behaviors you need to learn for your future  well-being
  • to develop an appropriate treatment plan to achieve the targets with EMDR

One of the unusual features of EMDR is that you do not have to discuss any of his disturbing memories in detail. So while some individuals are comfortable, and even prefer, giving specifics, other people may present more of a general picture or outline. When the therapist asks, for example, "What event do you remember that made you feel worthless and useless?" you may say, "It was something my brother did to me." That is all the information the therapist needs to identify and target the event with EMDR.

During this phase your therapist will return to the positive belief that you have identified to replace the negative belief created by the event. Or, explore whether the desired positive belief identified at the beginning of the session is still appropriate, or if a better one has emerged. The goal then is to concentrate on and increase the strength of this positive belief. This will be done by leading you repeatedly through consecutive sets of bilateral stimulation, checking for changes that occur and encouraging you to experiment with behaviors that confirm this (new) positive belief.

For example, you might begin with a mental image of being beaten up by your father and a negative belief of "I am powerless." During the Desensitization Phase the therapist will have helped you to reprocess the terror of that childhood event and to fully realize that as an adult you now have strength and choices you didn't have when you were young. During this fifth phase of treatment, the positive belief, "I am now in control," will be installed and strengthened. How deeply you believe this positive cognition is then repeatedly measured during the process. The goal is for you to accept the full truth of your positive self-statement at the highest possible level as true.

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EMDR employs an eight phase model of treatment to address the full range of personal problems caused or exacerbated by prior negative experiences. The eight phases of EMDR provide a systematic way to explore and process the negative experiences that are contributing to dysfunction, and the positive experiences that are needed to bring a client to full health.

The therapeutic process in EMDR Therapy