What is an actual EMDR session like?

EMDR is a client-centered approach in which the clinician works with the client to identify the specific problem or problems that will be the focus of treatment. Following a defined protocol, the mental health professional helps the client identify the images, self-referenced negative belief, emotions, and body sensations associated with a targeted problem or event. The client is then asked to develop a new positive belief about the self to replace the negative belief. The believability of this new belief is rated while the client thinks of the disturbing event.

The client is prepared for EMDR and then is asked to bring to mind all the negative information identified with the problem. The client follows the fingers of the mental health professional to produce the voluntary eye movements. After each set of eye movements, the client is asked to briefly comment. The mental health professional facilitates the client’s attention and works to support the client as he or she processes the upsetting material, making clinical decisions about the direction of the intervention along the way. The goal of EMDR treatment is the rapid processing of information about the negative experience and movement toward an adaptive resolution. This means a reduction in the client’s distress, a shift in the negative belief to the client’s positive belief, and the possibility of behaving more optimally in relationships with others and at work.

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