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The eight phases of EMDR therapy

The eight phases of EMDR therapy provide a framework to understand the treatment process. They act as a map for the EMDR therapist to follow. The names of the eight phases describe what happens during each phase and each phase focuses on a particular aspect of treatment (Hase, 2021). All eight phases contribute to the overall effect of EMDR therapy, however, not all phases may be used in one EMDR therapy session.

The Map of EMDR Eight Phases as a Guide

The map of the EMDR eight phases acts as a guide to the goal of EMDR therapy: to “facilitate accelerated information processing” (Shapiro, 2018, p. 83). The understanding upon which EMDR therapy is built is that every person has the natural ability to heal. We all go through difficult situations in life. Often, we are able to ‘process’ the information (images, sights, sounds, feelings, sensations, thoughts) from these events ourselves or with the help of friends and family. To clarify, ‘processing’ in EMDR therapy refers to this natural ability to integrate our emotions, beliefs, and body sensations about an experience. If an experience is ‘processed,’ we can understand that it was a negative experience, but we can also link it to positive or useful information regarding the experience. This positive or useful material could include lessons learned, helpful shifts in feeling and body sensation, remembering how strong we are, relation to past successes, or a realization of how future actions can be guided because of the experience. In other words, ‘processing’ an experience means to make sense of the experience, and also no longer feel disturbed by it.