Understanding the 8 Phases of EMDR

Understanding the 8 Phases of EMDR

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was initially established in 1987 to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is driven by the Adaptive Information Processing model. The Adaptive Information Processing model assesses symptoms of PTSD that result from past distressing experiences and continue to cause suffering because the individual was unable to manage the memory effectively. The untreated memories include the emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and physical feelings that transpired during the event. When the memories are initiated, the disturbing emotions are felt and trigger the symptoms of PTSD.

EMDR therapy is considered a non-trauma-focused treatment that seeks to decrease PTSD symptoms, but not by targeting thoughts, memories, and feelings related to the traumatic event. Instead, the methods focus on relaxation, stress training, or interpersonal therapy.


EMDR therapy varies from other trauma-focused treatments. It does not incorporate extensive exposure to stressful memories, comprehensive descriptions of the trauma, challenging dysfunctional beliefs, or homework assignments. Managing a particular memory is typically completed in an eight-phase approach within three to 12 sessions.

EMDR is a psychotherapy approach that encourages the client to momentarily focus on the traumatic memory while instantaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (BLS), which is associated with decreasing the intensity and emotion related to the traumatic experiences.

The Phases of EMDR

EMDR therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes history-taking, preparing the client, assessing the target memory, processing the memory to adaptive resolution, and evaluating treatment results.

Phase 1: History-Taking

Obtaining a comprehensive history and conducting assessments need to be completed first. Next, the counselor and client work together to acknowledge targets for treatment, such as memories, triggers, or goals.

Phase 2: Preparing the Client

The counselor explains the treatment and introduces the client to the procedures by practicing eye movements and relaxation practices.

Phase 3: Assessment

This phase involves activating the memory targeted in the session by identifying and assessing the memory components: image, cognition, affect, and body sensation. The counselor will use two different measures during the EMDR therapy sessions to evaluate changes in emotion and awareness called the Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale and the Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) scale. Both standards are used again throughout the treatment process, agreeing with the standardized methods. Examples of each are provided below:

  • Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale: The counselor would ask, “When you think of the experience, how true do those words (the positive cognition) feel to you now on a scale of one to seven, where one is completely false, and seven is entirely true?"
  • Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) scale: After the client states what emotion they are feeling, the counselor would ask, “On a scale of one to ten, where zero is no disturbance or neutral and ten is the highest disturbance, how disturbing does it feel now?”

Phase 4: Desensitization

The client concentrates on the specific memory and engages in eye movements. Next, the client will report any new thoughts, and the counselor determines the focus for the next set of BLS. This phase continues until the client no longer feels stress with the memory.

Phase 5: Installation

In this phase, an emphasis is placed on the optimistic belief that the client decides upon.

Phase 6: Body Scan

The client is asked to observe their physical reaction while thinking of the experience and the positive cognition while identifying remaining somatic distress.

Phase 7: Closure

This phase occurs when the sessions are coming to an end. If the targeted memory is not fully managed, specific guidelines and methods are applied to offer control and confirm safety until the next session.

Phase 8: Re-Evaluation

The counselor assesses the client’s psychological state, if treatment effects have been sustained, what memories have developed since the last session, and works with the client to recognize targets for the current session.

Benefits of EMDR for PTSD

The efficacy of EMDR therapy corresponds with the many benefits the treatment provides. When a client completes EMDR treatment, they will benefit from positive outcomes, including:

  • Reduced PTSD symptoms
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Increased capability to handle fear
  • Reduced sensitivity to traumatic experiences
  • Decreased fear
  • Enhanced functioning
  • Improved social skills
  • Increased mental stability

Seeking Help for PTSD

It can feel overwhelming when searching for help with mental health disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to help find mental health services in your area. In addition, you can find helpful information about treatment facilities that provide specialty care by using SAMHSA’s Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator.

There should be no shame in seeking help for a mental health disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most misunderstood mental health illnesses. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can help decrease PTSD symptoms and bring peace of mind with recovery. If you or a loved one are ready to begin your journey to recovery, we want to help. Crownview Co-Occurring Institute in Oceanside, CA, provides psychiatric treatment for many levels of mental disorders. Our individualized approach ensures that each client receives excellent care with positive results. CCI offers treatment plans to meet the physical and emotional needs for recovery. We will support you from crisis to independence by providing a healing environment with a considerate team of professionals ready to help you regain control of your life. Let CCI help you with evidence-based treatments for a successful long-term recovery. Call us today at (760) 477-4754.

Stellate Ganglion Block: A Breakthrough for Trauma Victims

Stellate Ganglion Block: A Breakthrough for Trauma Victims

According to the Evidence Synthesis Program (ESP), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the third most common psychiatric diagnosis among veterans treated by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), with more than 7 million adults in the United States struggling from the disorder. PTSD occurs subsequently with traumatic events such as natural disasters, terrorist situations, severe accidents, abuse, traumatic childhoods, critical health concerns, or physical or sexual assault.

The Department of Defense and healthcare scientists spent years searching and pursuing a series of solutions that would be safe, successful, and fast-acting in treating PTSD. Around 2010, military medical facilities started offering clients with PTSD a procedure customarily used to treat and relieve pain. The procedure was known as Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB).

What Is a Stellate Ganglion Block?

I bet you’re asking yourself what a stellate ganglion block is and how it can help trauma victims. The stellate ganglion is a cluster of nerve cells located in the spine. An SGB is an outpatient procedure involving the injection of a local anesthetic surrounding the stellate ganglion to obstruct sympathetic nerve impulses to the head, neck, and face. In other words, healing PTSD is now possible by administering a shot.

How a Stellate Ganglion Block Is Administered

The client is typically sedated during this procedure. A fine needle is positioned near the stellate ganglion using x-ray guidance, and an anesthetic is injected. The cluster of nerve cells that make up the stellate ganglion help control the body’s “fight or flight” reaction. The fight or flight response is a common reaction to shield an individual from potential danger; the nerve bodies transport fight or flight messages to the spinal cord and brain.

Individuals who struggle with PTSD can experience extreme and debilitating symptoms, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, avoidance of situations similar to the trauma, lack of emotions, and disturbing flashbacks. Almost everyone will experience a variety of responses after a traumatic event, but most people experience improvement in primary symptoms without treatment or medication. However, if symptoms do not decrease, an SGB could benefit the individual.

Benefits of a Stellate Ganglion Block

  • Improves PTSD symptoms
  • Reduces pain
  • Provides a biological approach
  • Offers fast-acting relief within minutes or a few days after the procedure
  • Enhances mood
  • Increases compliance to participate because it does not require daily administration

What Else Can a Stellate Ganglion Block Treat?

Along with improving and reducing PTSD symptoms, an SGB can also be administered to:

  • Detect the cause of pain in the face, head, arms, and chest
  • Manage pain in the head, neck, chest, or arms that result from nerve injuries, the effects of shingles, or angina
  • Decrease sweating of the face, head, arms, and hands
  • Treat sympathetically maintained pain
  • Minister complex regional pain syndrome
  • Reduce migraines and hot flashes
  • Treat the peripheral vertebral disease

How Effective Is a Stellate Ganglion Block?

The effectiveness of a stellate ganglion block varies depending on the individual. Some clients report pain relief directly after the injection, but there is a chance the pain may reoccur hours later as the local anesthetic wears off. In contrast, other clients have increased extended-term relief that endures the local anesthetic period and helps them decrease their medication use and increase their involvement in physical therapy.

How long the relief continues is different for each person. Some clients could go days or weeks without pain or presenting PTSD symptoms. Clients typically need a series of injections to continue the positive results. There are occasions where it will only take two injections, but other times it could require up to ten injections. Fortunately, the comfort tends to last longer with each treatment.

Side Effects and Risks of Complications of a Stellate Ganglion Block

There is a very low risk of complications from an SGB. The client will not feel any numbness in the face, but they will have a droopy eye, redness of the eye, warmth in the face, and may become hoarse. The side effects are temporary and only last a few hours. Some may not detect relief immediately, but most clients report feeling results within minutes or days.

Possible complications could include:

  • Vascular puncture
  • Neural puncture
  • Pneumothorax
  • Thyroid injury
  • Esophageal or tracheal puncture
  • Transient Horner syndrome
  • Intravascular injection
  • Infections

After the procedure is complete, the client should avoid driving or participating in any energetic activities for 24 hours. The individual should relax and take it slow until the following day when they can resume normal behaviors.

If trauma symptoms continue after an SGB procedure, the client is at an increased risk of stress. It is essential to recognize SGB as a highly effective treatment method that can provide quick results with extended relief from unbearable symptoms.

Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is a true breakthrough in PTSD treatment. It is a powerful opportunity for people with PTSD and other co-occurring conditions to find relief from debilitating symptoms. If you or a loved one could benefit from SGB, we want to help. Crownview Co-Occurring Institute in Oceanside, CA, offers psychiatric treatment for various levels of mental health disorders. Our individualized approach guarantees that each client receives quality care with successful results. We will support you from crisis to independence by providing a healing environment with a caring team of professionals ready to help you gain control of your life again. At CCI, we offer treatment plans to meet every physical and emotional need for recovery. Let CCI alleviate the trauma in your life with evidence-based treatment services for a successful long-term recovery. Call (760) 477-4754 today to learn about our effective treatment programs.

Upset girl with her face in her hand

How Do You Recognize Symptoms of PTSD?

When you think of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, you may think of war veterans. It’s a common misconception that PTSD is exclusively for those who have served in the army. However, PTSD is a lot more common than you think. PTSD can happen to anyone after experiencing a stressful event. That event can be anything from a sexual assault, a natural disaster, a car accident, long-term abuse (physical or emotional), or the sudden death of someone you love.

Untreated PTSD can wreak havoc on one’s ability to function in everyday life. Work, school, and relationships can suffer, as PTSD affects more than just the person suffering from it. How can you know if you or a loved one is experiencing this mental health disorder? The knowledgeable, compassionate staff at Crownview Co-Occurring Institute can help you recognize the signs.

How Does PTSD Affect People?

There are many ways that PTSD can manifest in a person’s life. It can happen immediately after a traumatic event or be delayed by weeks or months. This is because there is no one way for the brain to process trauma. Some people may experience repressed memories, which is the brain’s way of protecting itself from being triggered or experiencing the trauma again. However, other people may not experience this symptom. It may not be until a person is triggered by – for example, a certain smell or sound that reminds them of the incident – that they start to show PTSD symptoms.

What Are the Signs of PTSD?

It’s not uncommon for people living with PTSD to experience challenges in everyday life. These challenges can include difficulty paying attention in school or focusing on tasks at work, strained relationships with family or friends due to isolation, or neglecting healthy habits. It’s also not uncommon for someone with PTSD to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s page on “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” PTSD symptoms have four forms: intrusive memories, avoidance, changes in thought pattern and mood, and negative emotional and physical reactions. PTSD also doesn’t just affect the one person who experienced a trauma; it can have a ripple effect on families or friendships as well.

You may want to consider seeking help if you notice any of the following patterns in yourself or someone you love:

Intrusive Flashbacks

Intrusive flashbacks may include:

  • Recurring memories of the event
  • Reliving the trauma as if the event is still happening
  • Disturbing nightmares
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Adverse physical reactions to memories of the event


Avoidance may look like:

  • Trying not to think about the event or acting like it never happened
  • Refusing to go to certain places or interact with certain people that remind you of the event
  • Leaving a situation due to extreme anxiety

Negative Thought Patterns

Negative thought patterns can look like:

  • Feeling depressed about your future and the world
  • Prolonged sense of hopelessness
  • Detaching from social life and other once-enjoyable activities
  • Difficulty feeling happy and other positive emotions
  • Prolonged numbness

Changes in Emotional and Physical Reactions

When struggling with PTSD, you may also have changes in emotional and physical reactions, including:

  • Easily startled and scared
  • Feeling constantly “on guard” for new dangers or threats
  • Engaging in destructive behavior such as excessive drinking, fighting
  • Sudden bursts of anger
  • Overwhelming feelings of shame, also known as “survivor’s guilt”

What Does PTSD Treatment Look Like?

When healing from PTSD, it’s critical not to ignore the signs and symptoms. Mental health professionals are equipped to help deal with the impact of PTSD and formulate a plan to help you cope in healthy ways. It may be tempting to “shut down” and withdraw from the world or distract yourself in an attempt to forget replaying the memories. However, this rarely ever leads to successful healing.

It’s understandable to think that talking about trauma may make it worse. It can be damaging if family or friends pressure you to share details before you’re ready. However, with time, many people find it helpful to verbally process the event with a trained, unbiased third party in a safe, professional setting. It can be validating to share your experience and be assured that life as you know it does not have to stop. The right therapy can provide you with the necessary tools to create a “new normal.”

What Forms Can Therapy Take?

There are various treatments for PTSD depending on your unique needs. Treatment could include medication, psychological therapy, a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or inpatient treatment. No matter the form of treatment, the goal is to target the core traumatic issue causing your symptoms to help you take back your life.

The therapeutic process should be on your terms; you should never be rushed to share more than you’re comfortable with. It’s essential to have patience with yourself as you process your reactions to trauma. It may take some time before you notice positive changes, and that’s normal.

What Does a Coping Plan Look Like?

Your personal coping plan is as unique as you are. It can look like creating a plan for dealing with triggers, figuring out a support network, or incorporating regular self-care into your routine. Through exercise, meditation, or regular visits with a therapist, you can find what works best to stay present and calm in the face of overwhelming emotions and fears.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Contact our admissions team to learn how Crownview can help you or your loved one.

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