The Relationship Center of Jacksonville

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Trauma & EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy is an innovative approach to counseling that has been extremely successful over the past three decades when used as trauma therapy, as well as for healing a range of other emotional difficulties. It is a simple, non-invasive process that utilizes a characteristic motion of the eyes in collaboration with guidance from a therapist to bring about accelerated emotional healing.

An Effective Choice

EMDR Therapy has been used successfully to treat a variety of difficulties:

  • Depression & Anxiety
  • Anger Management
  • Low Self-Esteem & Lack of Self-Confidence
  • Relationship Difficulties
  • Symptoms of Trauma

Sad Woman

What Happens in an EMDR Therapy Session?

Before EMDR Therapy is used, there is a preparation and assessment phase of treatment. The EMDR Therapy techniques are explained and demonstrated so that you will feel comfortable and know what to expect. During the assessment phase, information needed to design a treatment plan is obtained. This history-taking phase includes identifying specific targets for treatment.

After the preparation and assessment phases are complete, the treatment phase begins. A typical EMDR Therapy session begins with the therapist gently guiding you to pinpoint a problem or event that will be the target of treatment. Once you start the eye movements or tactile stimulation, it may be very difficult to focus on the memory — this is normal. The initial focusing on the memory opens the door to the memory, and the therapy completes the processing on a deeper subconscious level.

You may experience feelings, thoughts, and body sensations; you may experience nothing. Whatever you notice you are encouraged to notice it as if you were passing by it on a train rather than being within the experience. If at any time you feel overwhelmed, you only need to raise your hand to stop the process. Your feelings surrounding any given event or memory will be rated by you from 1–10 both prior to and after the EMDR Therapy processing. The aim of every session is noticeable improvement by the time you leave the session.


The patterns of the eye movements or tactile stimulation are done in short sets with breaks in between, depending upon a client's needs. You will be asked to share "what you noticed" at the end of each set during the break. You may share what thoughts and feelings you experienced, or you can decline to answer and request to simply continue the process. There are no right or wrong answers — your sharing only guides the sets.

The sets continue until your emotions are neutralized and the event is re-associated with positive thoughts and feelings about oneself, such as "I realize now that it wasn't my fault." You can stop the process at any time by raising your hand. It is important to remember that your brain is doing the processing and that you are the one in control. EMDR Therapy is a passive process, and you are encouraged to just let whatever happens, happen.

Common Questions About EMDR Therapy

Is there any discomfort involved in the EMDR process?

EMDR Therapy can evoke strong emotions during a session. This is perfectly normal and desirable, since the technique works on the negative feelings and thoughts when they are brought into your awareness. However, the re-experiencing of these unpleasant feelings is brief and they will soon leave you when the process is completed. If you will persevere through the upsetting memories for a short time, you will likely be pleased with the outcome of the therapy. Relief occurs rapidly, and for many, permanently.

What happens after an EMDR Therapy session?

In between EMDR Therapy sessions, it is helpful to keep a journal to record any unusual or noteworthy thoughts or feelings. You can then bring your notes to the next session. This log will help your therapist to know if any adjustments in therapy are warranted. After an EMDR Therapy session, there may be a strong sense of relief, a feeling or openness or often euphoria.

This is a normal reaction to the release that has, and is, taken place. From time to time, some clients experience unusual thoughts or vivid dreams that may or may not have any meaning. This is part of the releasing process and should not cause undue concern. Be sure to mention these experiences to your counselor in your next session, and if you are concerned, be sure to contact them.

Is EMDR hypnosis?

No. Similar to hypnosis, EMDR Therapy seems to work with the unconscious mind, bringing into consciousness the repressed thoughts and feelings that must be experienced again in order to release their energetic hold on the individual. However, during the EMDR Therapy session, you are awake, alert, and in control at all times. The healing that takes place with EMDR Therapy is much faster than with hypnotherapy.

How does EMDR Therapy work?

When disturbing experiences happen, they often seem to get "locked" in the nervous system. When a person is very upset, the brain seems to become unable to process an experience as it would normally. Since the event is "trapped" in the nervous system, it continues to be triggered whenever a reminder occurs. This "locked" information is often reactivated by a variety of reminders and is responsible for an individual's frequent feelings of fear, helplessness, and hopelessness.

The EMDR Therapy technique does two very important things. First, it "unlocks" the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system; second, it helps the brain to successfully "reprocess" the experience. The therapist works gently with the client, guiding him or her to revisit a traumatic or upsetting event, recalling any negative thoughts, feelings, and images.

The therapist uses bilateral stimulation, either through eye movement or tactile stimulation (holding pulsars in your hands that vibrate back and forth), to release the emotional experiences that are "trapped" in the brain. The disturbing thoughts, memories, and feelings are "reprocessed" and become less threatening. The associated distorted negative self-beliefs (e.g. "it was my fault," "I have to be perfect," and "I am not good enough") are exchanged for more positive and adaptive self-beliefs.

This process can be complex if there are a lot of experiences connected to the negative feelings or distorted self-beliefs. The therapy sessions continue until the traumatic memories and emotions are relieved.

How effective is EMDR Therapy?

When compared to other methods of psychotherapy, the process has been rated as far more effective by mental health professionals. Because of the ability to experience emotional healing at an accelerated rate, clients should notice improvement within the first several sessions. The clinical effects of EMDR Therapy have been supported in numerous controlled studies over the past two decades. For references to these studies, visit EMDR Institute or the EMDR International Association.