Christina Janiga Psychotherapy - Blog

This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidence-based education for the purposes of self-help and information

How To Best Prepare For Your EMDR Therapy Journey

Image of woman doing EMDR therapy and butterfly hug

Thinking about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to deal with trauma, anxiety, loss, or other emotional issues? If you’re researching or waiting to start EMDR therapy, you may want to know how to prepare for the process. This guide aims to help you understand and prepare for your EMDR therapy journey.

EMDR therapy is a unique type of treatment that helps your brain better organize and store memories that might be causing distressing symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. It essentially neutralizes the impact of difficult experiences, allowing you to access calming resources and adaptive reasoning more effectively.

When Does The EMDR Part Actually Begin?

EMDR therapist providing phase 1 assessment

Many believe that the EMDR process begins in the first therapy session. In reality, the actual EMDR process, which involves accessing specific memories and using bilateral eye movements to reprocess them, usually doesn’t start until the second or third session or sometimes even later. The first sessions focus on gathering your history, creating a treatment plan, and preparing you for the process.

The EMDR therapy process can bring to surface emotions experienced at the time of the trauma. This could make you more sensitive temporarily before your symptoms start to ease. As a result, therapists ensure that you have effective coping strategies and support systems in place before the therapy begins. Qualified therapists will also teach you new coping strategies during the initial stages to enhance the success of the EMDR process.


What Can You Do To Prepare For EMDR Therapy?

Person scheduling on computer an EMDR therapy session

While the therapist will guide you through the bulk of the preparation, you can start practicing good self-care. This could involve daily relaxing activities such as walking outside, practicing yoga, conversing with a supportive friend, or doing some deep-breathing exercises. Eating a healthy diet, limiting consumption of sugary and processed foods, and getting adequate sleep are also beneficial.

Here Are Some Additional Recommendations To Prepare for EMDR Therapy:

Two women talking and increasing supports to do EMDR therapy

  1. Know Your Support System: Who can you turn to when you’re feeling stressed or upset? If you can’t think of anyone immediately, consider keeping a log of thoughts you’d like to discuss in your therapy sessions.
  2. Engage in Stress-Reducing Activities: Aim to include some form of stress-reducing physical activity in your daily routine. This could be a walk in nature, daily stretching, practicing yoga, or dancing around your living room. Physical movement can be incredibly therapeutic!
  3. Practice Meditation: Try to allocate at least ten minutes each day for breathing exercises or meditation. Research has shown that meditation can stimulate the development of new, more adaptive neuronal networks in your brain.
  4. Start a “small moments of pleasure” Journal: Regardless of the stress or suffering you’re experiencing right now, finding and embracing small moments of pleasure can boost the joy and peace in your life. Try to identify at least one thing you’re enjoying and find pleasure in each day. It could be anything from baking and enjoying cookies with your family, being fully present and luxuriating in the comfort you feel slipping into fresh sheets at night, to the love you feel when you care for your pet. Write these down and bring your list to your therapy sessions.

Engaging in self-care actually strengthens adaptive networks in the brain, which can facilitate a smoother EMDR therapy process. The resolution of traumatic memories becomes easier with more resources. An important part of the therapy involves developing these healthy resources, and your therapist will assist you in this process.

Preparing For Your First EMDR Session Can Alleviate Anxiety And Boost Confidence. Here’s How:

Man on couch feeling positive adaptive shifts after EMDR therapy session

  1. Learn about EMDR: Educate yourself on what EMDR is, how it works, the different phases of the process, the appearance of sessions, the duration, and potential side effects. Use reliable resources such as medical websites, therapy forums, or directly from your therapist.
  2. Practice Self-Awareness and Coping Skills: EMDR can resurface unpleasant emotions linked to trauma. Hence, having a toolkit of strategies to cope with these emotions is crucial. Learn to identify the signals your body sends when you’re experiencing strong emotions and develop strategies to cope with these feelings. This could be deep breathing, journaling your thoughts and feelings, or going for a quiet walk in nature.
  3. Anticipate Your Session Day Needs: Plan your day of the session so that there’s little stress. Allow ample time to reach your therapy appointment to avoid feeling rushed. Also, ensure you have some downtime after the session, as it’s common to feel emotionally tired following EMDR.
  4. Give Your Loved Ones A Head’s Up: Let your loved ones and trustworthy friends know about your therapy and be clear about what kind of support you may need a little extra support from them.

Your journey towards healing and growth is uniquely yours, and it’s important to remember that progress may look different for everyone. Challenges might arise, but overcoming them is possible with the help of EMDR therapy, effective preparation, and your inherent resilience.

Looking for an EMDR therapist? We have available therapists trained in EMDR therapy. Click below to get started!

Image of Justine Fram, psychotherapist and EMDR therapist who supports people with trauma

Justine Fram

Registered Psychotherapist, EMDR Therapist

Image of Natalie St-Denis, registered psychotherapist (qualifying), providing psychotherapy services

Natalie St-Denis

Registered Psychotherapist, EMDR Therapist

Image of Christina Janiga, psychotherapist and certified EMDR therapist

Christina Janiga

Registered Psychotherapist, Certified EMDR Therapist and Approved EMDR Consultant

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