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A Therapist's Advice on Preparing Yourself for Your First EMDR Session

woman in therapy session

We cycle through a million questions and scenarios that could happen. Often, the fear of the unknown keeps many of us from trying something new. Starting therapy, especially, is commonly put off by people due to not knowing what to expect.

If you have gone through something traumatic, you may be curious about the different types of therapy options out there. At first glance, EMDR may seem like something too out there, but the results of how it can help someone are astounding. Here is some advice on what to expect from your first EMDR session.

What is EMDR?

First, let's start with some basics about EMDR. EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is an approach to mental health that is primarily used to treat trauma. It can also treat co-morbid (associated) symptoms of trauma including depression and anxiety.

In EMDR, you will work with your therapist by focusing on a specific memory that is causing you the most stress. Using guided hand movements, your therapist will ask you to focus on that memory as your eyes follow their hands. EMDR is based on scientific evidence that we process memories during the REM stage of sleep. During this stage of sleep, the eyes will move rapidly back and forth. EMDR uses these principles to help reframe and reprocess traumatic memories.

Now, let's talk about the first session.

EMDR Phase 1

There are eight phases in total for EMDR. Keep in mind this does not mean that there are only eight sessions of EMDR that will be completed.

The first phase of EMDR is the history and intake session. In this session, you and your therapist will discuss your issues and symptoms. You can talk about why you want to try EMDR and whether you have ever been to therapy before. This will also give your therapist a chance to determine if any previous methods to heal your trauma have not been effective.

While therapy focuses on you, it's also important to establish a good professional relationship with your therapist. Since EMDR can bring up negative feelings and memories, it's important to feel safe as you reprocess the trauma. Your first session will allow you to break the ice, so to speak, and learn to feel comfortable talking with someone.

In addition to the history intake, the first phase is focused on developing a treatment plan. Due to the length of sessions and what may be discussed, phase 1 could expand into two sessions. Collaborating with your therapist, you will work together to develop a game plan for the specific things you want to focus on during your EMDR sessions.

How Detailed Do I Need To Be?

As therapists, we understand that certain things are too painful to discuss. If there is something from your past that you don't want to talk about, you won't be forced to. However, it is important to provide general details and give input to your therapist.

One aspect of therapy that many people are unsure of is the confidentiality aspect of it. Whatever you want to discuss in a therapy session stays between you and your therapist. While your therapist will take notes to help guide them with your treatment plan, they will never discuss your private details with anyone, unless you or someone you know is in danger.

If you are interested to learn more about EMDR therapy or have other questions, don't hesitate to reach out to learn more.


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