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EMDR Therapy Program

The EMDR therapy program at Phoenix Rising is designed to help individuals who suffer from both addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We utilize EMDR as a form of evidence-based treatment to help those who suffer from conditions such as:

  • Personality disorders
  • Addictions
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Symptoms of past traumas (PTSD)

What is EMDR?

EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is a low-cost, non-invasive form of psychotherapy that helps you identify and address past experiences that have created a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil or psychological stress in your life. In doing so, EMDR helps people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that came from disturbing life experiences.

Continued studies show that EMDR therapy can quickly help people get in shape. This is because, up until this point, people assumed that severe emotional pain takes a long time to heal. Through EMDR therapy though, the mind can heal from psychological trauma relatively quickly.EMDR Therapy Program

How It Works

If you cut your hand, your body acts to close the wound. If something irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the irritant is removed, the healing resumes. EMDR therapy shows that a similar sequence of events happens with mental processes.

The information processing system in your brain naturally leans toward mental health. If the system is blocked or put out of balance by the disturbing event, the emotional wound festers. This could result in intense suffering. Once that block is removed though, just like with the physical injury to your hand, healing resumes. Thus, by using specific protocols and procedures during therapy, therapists can help patients activate their natural healing processes.

By receiving EMDR therapy, you can reprocess past traumatic experiences until they no longer disrupt areas of your life.

The EMDR Treatment Process

EMDR therapy occurs in eight phases of treatment. These phases of treatment include:

Initial History Discovery and treatment Planning (1-2 sessions)

During this phase of EMDR therapy, the therapist will thoroughly analyze the patient’s history with substance abuse and trauma. Then a treatment plan can be created. Also, at this time, the therapist and the patient will discuss what substance use issues led the patient to seek treatment. Throughout this discussion, the therapist will take note of the behaviors and symptoms that the patient has.

Preparation (1-4 sessions)

Establishing trust between a therapist and patient is the primary goal during this phase of EMDR therapy. This is because if the patient doesn’t trust the therapist, the patient won’t accurately report his or her feelings. During this phase, the therapist will also help the patient learn ways to cope with emotional or psychological stress.

Assessment (typically 3 sessions)

1st session

During this EMDR therapy phase, the patient will mentally access his or her own traumatic memories. That way the patient and therapist can process these memories. During this time, the therapist will identify which of the patient’s memories need to be targeted.

The therapist will also take note of things like physical sensations. Physical sensations sometimes affect the patient when he or she concentrates on specific target memories.

2nd phase

During the assessment phase of EMDR therapy, the patient first selects a specific mental picture from a target event. Next, the patient will choose a statement that expresses a negative self-belief.

3rd Phase

The patient will then pick out a positive self-statement. The statement should include a sense of control such as “I can succeed” or “I am safe.” It should reflect what is actually suitable for the present.


During this phase of EMDR therapy, the therapist looks at the patient’s disturbing emotions and sensations. All of the patient’s responses are dealt with as the targeted event changes and its distressing elements are settled.

The desensitization phase even gives the patient the opportunity to identify and resolve similar events in his or her life. That way the patient has the ability to possibly exceed his or her goals.


The goal during the installation phase of EMDR therapy is to increase the patient’s strength and ability to think positively rather than negatively. Another goal of the installation phase of EMDR therapy is for the patient to fully accept the good things about oneself.

Body Scan

After the patient strongly believes that his or her positive self-talk is true, the therapist may then ask the patient to go back and focus on the original target event. Doing this will show if the patient contains any leftover tension or not about the said target event.


This is one of the most important phases in EMDR therapy. If a patient is truly receiving closure, he or she will leave each session feeling better than before.

Throughout EMDR therapy, patients are briefed on what to expect between sessions in case new material emerges. Patients are also briefed on what calming techniques they can use to help them achieve closure quicker. EMDR therapists will even ask patients to keep journals during the week of their experiences with the hope that it will help them achieve closure quicker.

close up of an eye for an EMDR therapy programReevaluation

This phase actually opens every new session. During this phase of EMDR therapy, the therapist will guide the patient through treatment plans.

The purpose of doing this is to determine the success of the treatment over time. Even if during EMDR therapy the patient feels relief in a short amount of time, it’s important that he or she complete all 8 phases of treatment. Otherwise, there’s a strong chance that the patient will relapse and quickly fall back into old habits.

The Goal

The goal of EMDR is to help patients reprocess harmful memories by addressing them in a more proactive way. For instance, if an individual is assaulted as a child, that person may start to believe that he or she is to blame for what happened. This belief could make the individual feel insecure within oneself on top of feeling unsafe in the world. Our treatment specialists use EMDR as a way of helping such patients reprocess what happened so that they can come to know the truth and regain a sense of security in the world.

During the EMDR therapy process, therapists will help patients process traumatic memories in a way that promotes peaceful resolution. Through EMDR therapy, patients that have experienced past trauma will discover insights that will help them counter how they’ve reacted to trauma all of these years.

What Happens During an EMDR Therapy Session?

Unlike traditional talk therapy, EMDR is more interactive. During EMDR therapy sessions, the therapists will lead the patients through a series of lateral eye motions. During this time, the patients focus on various aspects of painful memory. A handheld device or a bilateral sound using headphones may trigger lateral eye movements.

During an EMDR therapy session, patients come face to face with their most painful memories. While doing so, the therapists will help the patients recognize important truths about their present reality. For example, EMDR therapy patients that were once abandoned by a spouse or parent may learn that they are still loveable.

Other EMDR therapy patients that have experienced traumatic car accidents may come to realize that it is safe to drive once more. Ultimately, the purpose of our EMDR therapy program is to help patients confront their most traumatic memories, so that they can move on and no longer need to abuse substances to cope.

Benefits of EMDR Therapy

There are numerous benefits to EMDR therapy. These benefits include:

  • The ability to finally resolve internal conflict from past trauma
  • The ability to feel empowered and more in control of one’s life
  • The ease of physical problems that are often associated with stress or trauma
  • Understanding the connection between trauma and behavior
  • It can help individuals deal with co-occurring disorders such as PTSD and addiction.

One of the only drawbacks to EMDR therapy is it requiring individuals to face extremely painful emotions and memories that stem from past trauma. While many people may be hesitant to face their past traumas, it’s important to do so to heal from PTSD and the possible addiction that has developed as a result of it. Here at Phoenix Rising Recovery, our EMDR therapy services give patients the ability to face their fears so that they can overcome them once and for all.

Are There Any Side Effects to EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is safe. In fact, it has fewer side effects than prescription medications. Some of the side effects that EMDR therapy does have though include:

  • Heightened awareness of thinking. This heightened awareness doesn’t automatically end when the session does. As this heightened sense of awareness persists though, patients can experience light-headedness, and vivid, realistic dreams.
  • It typically takes several sessions to treat PTSD. It is quicker than typical talk therapy, but it doesn’t work overnight.
  • The initial phase of EMDR therapy may be triggering to people dealing with traumatic events. Due to the heightened focus that EMDR therapy creates in patients, this form of treatment might be emotionally stressful, particularly at the start. Thus, be sure to talk to your therapist about your feelings and emotions so that when you begin your EMDR therapy treatment, you’ll be prepared for the emotions that will arise from it.

How Effective is EMDR Therapy?

There have been many independent and controlled studies that show that EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs recommends it as a treatment for PTSD.

A study in 2012 even found that EMDR therapy helped treat 77% of people with psychotic disorder and PTSD. This study also found that the hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, and depression symptoms of individuals that received EMDR therapy were greatly improved. Furthermore, these symptoms weren’t worsened during treatment.

A previous study that compared EMDR therapy to typical exposure therapy, even found that EMDR was more effective at treating symptoms and had a lower dropout rate. However, both forms of therapy provided a reduction in symptoms of traumatic stress, including depression and anxiety.

Long-term Benefits

Several small studies found that people can maintain the positive effects of EMDR therapy long-term. One of these studies even evaluated people several months after they were given “standard care” treatment and EMDR treatment for PTSD. During these people’s treatments and immediately afterward, they noticed that EMDR was noticeably more effective at reducing the symptoms of PTSD.

Three and six months after receiving EMDR therapy, this study’s patients maintained these benefits. Thus, the study found that EMDR therapy gave people a longer-lasting reduction in symptoms than standard care.

An inpatient study even shows that EMDR therapy shows promise in treating depression. In fact, the inpatient study found that 68% of the people in the EMDR therapy group showed full remission and an impressive decline in depressive symptoms. But, because of the small sample size in this study, more research needs to be done on the use of EMDR therapy to treat depression for its results to be conclusive.

Discover EMDR Therapy at Phoenix Rising Recovery

Learn more about EMDR therapy here at Phoenix Rising Recovery. Anxiety, PTSD, and depression are common underlying conditions for substance abuse disorders. Here at Phoenix Rising, we offer EMDR therapy and other types of treatment for co-occurring disorders. To find out more, contact us here and get started with your EMDR treatment today.