Preparing for EMDR: Essential Insights and Readiness Tips

April 03, 2024
EMDR therapy session with male and female sitting across from one another.

If you are wondering what to expect from EMDR, you’re not alone. Many of my clients express worry or fear about the process. I’ve compiled the most helpful suggestions for preparing for a EMDR cycle.

EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an 8 phase therapy intervention that helps reduce symptoms of trauma. The first few sessions are information sessions and resourcing. In this phase you create a timeline of the trauma, as well as learn regulating coping skills that can help ease your nervous system. These two phases can last anywhere from two months to six months, and for some people the first two phases of EMDR is enough to resolve the symptoms or distress and future sessions are not needed.

Phases 3-8 involve reprocessing your traumatic memories. Your target is identified; Target could be your memory of the trauma, an image, a feeling or sensation. Your therapist will help you to identify the targets as well as what order to reprocess them. For a more in depth overview of the 8 phases click here.

What are some tips I can use before session?

Self Care is Crucial

Before your EMDR session drink plenty of water, avoid substances that are mind altering, and get a good nights rest. If you can take the day off during reprocessing we recommend you take the rest of the day to journal, sleep, or follow your self care plan.

Talk to a Loved One

Before you start EMDR let someone know that you will be starting this trauma treatment. This is for your support outside of sessions. Make sure this is a person you trust and feel safe with. If there is no one you feel comfortable sharing this with discuss alternatives with your therapist.

Create a Pattern of Coping Skills

Your therapist will teach you all kinds of exercises, and tips for self care and nervous system regulation before you begin reprocessing (phase 3-7). We recommend having a strong sense of these exercises and have a consistent routine of incorporating them into your daily life. Your therapist will discuss this with you and help you find the time to create a routine that works for you.

What are some tips during my EMDR sessions?

Don’t Over do it

In an EMDR session you will be able to identify trauma from across the life span. Sometimes the urge to reprocess the worst of the trauma is hard to ignore, but we often recommend starting with something that is less distressing so you can orient to the sessions, and know what to expect. Reprocessing too much to quickly can lead to frustration, disregulation, and the urge to quit EMDR. Your therapist collaborates with you to identify your targets and set up a system to help you reprocess things in a way that helps you regulate.

Bring Comfort Items

If you have a favorite sweater or a blanket, or even a stuffed animal that you sleep with at night, bring it with you. If can help you to regulate during and after session. We recommend bringing a water bottle, and a snack, and we also have snacks, drinks, and sensory items you can use in our office.

Let us Know if you Need to Pause

Sometimes in session reprocessing can get overwhelming and you may feel the need to pause or stop session. Trust your intuition and let your therapist know that you need to pause . Your therapist will know how to support you and help you through any discomfort.

What are some tips for after session?

Be Mindful of your Time

Take the day off work and other responsibilities after a reprocessing session. We recommend scheduling EMDR sessions when you do not have major plans for the next few weeks. After session you may feel tired, or disoriented and there may be a lot of new thoughts or memories that come up. For some clients this lasts for 12-48 hours and for others the effects may last until the next session. These symptoms are not permanent and will alleviate after targets are cleared.

Your therapist will show you many resources and recommend you use the skills before and after reprocessing. After sessions it is helpful to use these skills to help you feel grounded and to process any memories and thoughts that come up. You may notice an increase in nightmares, or vivid dreams, symptoms of dissociation, irritability, sadness, or memories arise. All of this is normal; but not guaranteed. The coping skills you have done before and after are designed to help you process in between sessions.

Connect to Loved Ones

Let a family member or friend know that you are in EMDR, we also suggest sharing and connecting with safe friends and family. They may have questions or feel concerned if you are struggling so sharing with them on your journey can help them understand and for you to get the support you need.

To learn more about other treatment options we provide click here. You can schedule a consultation to learn more or make an appointment.

Blogs

Learn how you can take steps toward healing with our latest blogs

Two people helping to heal trauma through close relationship

A Guide to EMDR Therapy: Helping Your Loved One Heal from Trauma

How to help a loved one who is Experiencing Trauma Recently someone told you that your family member or friend is undergoing EMDR Therapy. This can be surprising and confusing at first. Know that you are a trusted person in your friends life and they felt safe sharing with you. I’ve created this guide to […]
EMDR therapy session with male and female sitting across from one another.

Preparing for EMDR: Essential Insights and Readiness Tips

If you are wondering what to expect from EMDR, you’re not alone. Many of my clients express worry or fear about the process. I’ve compiled the most helpful suggestions for preparing for a EMDR cycle. EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an 8 phase therapy intervention that helps reduce symptoms of trauma. The […]