Peeling Layers: the EMDR Process

EMDR treatment consists of clients identifying negative beliefs about themselves which cause discomfort in the present. Together with the therapist, they identify how they would rather feel and act in these troublesome situations. EMDR is used to neutralize the discomfort, make positive beliefs more valid, negative beliefs less valid, and enable clients to learn new skills. EMDR also helps neutralize painful memories. When a client is ready to work on painful issues from the past, EMDR targets these memories, neutralizing the pain and helping the person to feel more positive about himself with regard to the memory. To help a client feel safe enough to explore painful memories or experiences, the process of resourcing is used. This can include creating a safe, peaceful place, focusing on positive memories, an important person in their life, or an animal, and positive qualities and aspects of themselves. These positives are installed and strengthened until client feels strong enough to look at their pain and heal it.

EMDR processing may be described using the metaphor of an artichoke. The brain will only access information it is ready to process. Layers are peeled away gradually until the next deeper layer is reached. Sessions may provide new levels of adaptation, which may need to occur before the client is ready to process the underlying deeper level. This unfolds naturally, so clients can learn to let things happen and flow with the process in a safe environment. (adapted from Shapiro, 1995)