How to Prepare for EMDR Therapy

You might have come across numerous acronyms and jargon words related to therapy and counselling. One such term that is in mainstream society today is “EMDR” but only a tiny fraction of the general public has a comprehensive idea about it. EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing” and it is a method of therapy used to treat a variety of mental health issues. EMDR is mostly practised with patients who have trauma-based disorders.

The EMDR technique is an evidence-based approach but it is quite normal to experience a mixture of uncertainty and anticipation if you are considering EMDR-based therapy. This particular blog post will go over how you can prepare yourself for EMDR therapy, the general overview of this therapy method, tips to maximise what you get out of the therapy, and what to expect during EMDR sessions.

Overview of EMDR Therapy

It will benefit you if you first understand the basics and foundation of EMDR therapy before starting EMDR sessions. Developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, EMDR could be described as a structured therapy approach that aims to help individuals better process distressing memories and past life experiences through several techniques. These EMDR techniques include bilateral stimulation, such as through eye movements, hand tapping, or auditory tones.

The core strategy behind EMDR is to attempt to desensitise the emotional charge associated with past traumatic memories and reprocess these into a more adaptive, manageable, and healthy form. This is achieved through a series of standardised protocols that a qualified professional is able to implement.

Preparing Yourself for EMDR Therapy

  • Familiarise yourself with EMDR
    First off, it is essential that you familiarise yourself with EMDR therapy, its fundamentals, how the process works, and other important elements. This would be beneficial to you as it can alleviate your anxiety with EMDR therapy sessions and build your personal confidence in the process. EMDR sessions can then be more understandable and effective.
  • Establish a supportive relationship with your therapist
    The therapist is a core part of the EMDR process and if you are able to build a trusting and supportive as well as transparent professional relationship with your therapist, it would pave the way for a higher level of successful results. You can openly discuss any doubts, concerns, or clarifications you have with your therapist before kick-starting EMDR therapy processes. This will allow you to be in a more relaxed state during the actual EMDR sessions.
  • Set realistic expectations
    In general, therapy is not made up of ad-hoc processes that yield instant results due to the complexity of most emotional and mental disorders and circumstances of individuals as well as the complexity of treating some of these issues. Similarly, it is not the best policy to expect EMDR therapy to immediately help you after the initial sessions as EMDR is a gradual process that requires multiple sessions to achieve significant results. However, you might go through some release and a beneficial experience during your first EMDR session but the most helpful results are witnessed over the course of a few sessions across multiple weeks.
  • Pinpoint the target past experiences and memories
    It would smoothen the EMDR therapy flow if you are able to pinpoint to the specific experiences or memories that you would like to target. This can be done by working with your therapist and then these past events can be targeted during EMDR sessions. These experiences and memories generally include traumatic incidents from childhood or adulthood, recurring negative beliefs, and distressing memories.
  • Practice self-care
    It is always important to take care of your emotional and physical well-being if you are engaging in therapy sessions. Self-care activities leading up to EMDR sessions could make the therapy, counselling, and healing more productive. Self-care practises include getting adequate sleep, consuming healthy and nourishing meals, as well as engaging in activities that relaxes you and brings you joy. If you are with a calm mindset when you begin therapy, it will help you feel more grounded and prepared for the therapy process.

During EMDR Sessions

  • Stay open to your emotions
    During your EMDR sessions, you will go through a variety of emotions, sentiments, sensations, and thoughts. This might be both positive and negative and it will be helpful if you allow yourself to stay open to these experiences. Trusting in the therapeutic process and trying to complete the process whenever it is safe to do so is beneficial to successfully conclude the EMDR session.
  • Communicate with your therapist
    If you go through any discomfort, distress, or other problematic issue during your EMDR sessions, do not hesitate to communicate with your therapist. Be open and transparent and establish effective communication lines with your therapist. Your therapist’s guidance in these matters could greatly assist you and you can discuss whatever concerns you have. Therapists and other professionals are there to support you and they can adjust the pace or approach as required for each individual in order to ensure a higher level of safety and comfort.
  • Practice self-regulation techniques
    Self-regulation techniques are certain basic tactics that enhance your self-awareness of your own emotional state and then process them in a healthy way. To help you manage any distress that arises during EMDR sessions, you can coordinate with your therapist and implement suitable self-regulation techniques. Practising these techniques consistently will help you build confidence in your own ability to cope with difficult incidents and emotions.

Between EMDR Sessions

  • Process session revelations
    Take your own time between EMDR sessions to reflect on the revelations that emerged during your therapy sessions. Self-reflect and process these sentiments and certain activities can assist you. These activities include journaling, meditating, and talking with a trusted loved one. This will encourage and enable you to integrate the therapy into your daily life.
  • Engage in self-care
    Continue practicing self-care activities between EMDR sessions as this will support your overall emotional and physical well-being. Focussing and completing activities that are relaxing to you could be beneficial. Minimising your stress is an important goal before, between, and after EMDR sessions.
  • Follow therapist recommendations
    Depending on your EMDR sessions, your therapist may provide you with certain tasks or recommendations for you to engage apart from the EMDR session processes. These may include reprocessing your emotions and other similar activities. Following these recommendations will help you maximise the effectiveness of your therapy.


EMDR is a therapy technique that seeks to resolve traumatic and distressing past memories and experiences that still adversely affect you. It will be helpful to you if you prepare yourself for EMDR therapy before, during, and between the sessions. This preparation involves increasing awareness about the process, communicating openly with your therapist, as well as engaging in self-care activities to support your emotional and physical well-being. You can enact proactive steps to prepare yourself for EMDR therapy and then actively participate in the process to improve the success and effectiveness of the therapy sessions. This will ensure a healthier healing and growth.

If you are considering EMDR therapy and are on the lookout for a supportive and experienced therapist, we at Light Mind Counselling & Psychology in Melbourne are here to help. Our compassionate therapists specialise in EMDR therapy and are able to guide you on your journey towards healing and a positive transformation. Reach out to us today to learn more and take the first step towards a brighter and healthier tomorrow with our counsellor Harshani Algiriya.

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