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What to Expect & How to Prepare for an EMDR Intensive

Updated: Mar 26




What Is EMDR Intensive Therapy


EMDR differs significantly from talk therapy in its approach. While talk therapy focuses on changing cognitive processes to alter emotional states, EMDR takes a different approach. EMDR targets the reprogramming of memory networks and desensitizes negative or traumatic memories that contribute to emotional distress. The desensitization of these memories effectively changes emotional responses, leading to a natural change in cognitive processes. Rather than managing symptoms or trying to consciously react differently to life events, EMDR allows individuals to address the root cause by directly altering their emotional experience.


In contrast to talk therapy, EMDR offers more flexibility in the duration and intensity of treatment sessions. EMDR allows for longer session times, ranging from 3 to 4 hours, and even enables extended sessions lasting all day or up to 5 consecutive days if needed. This extended timeframe can provide a more intensive and comprehensive therapeutic experience.


EMDR Intensive Session Information


During EMDR intensives, we will engage in concentrated, extended sessions lasting for 3 hours without breaks over multiple consecutive days or as a full-day 6-hour session with structured breaks. This format allows for intensive processing and deep therapeutic work to address specific targets.


Location


Sessions will take place in my office. I encourage you to bring any items that will make you feel comfortable, such as blankets or snacks. If there is a need for a different location, please ensure privacy and conducive space.


Step One: Target Identification


We will identify specific targets for our intensive sessions. These may include:

- Addressing physical symptoms and the need for love and validation through body connection.

- Clearing negative emotions and beliefs related to your relationship with your present, past or future

- Processing distressing memories or dreams.

- Exploring undesirable feelings, symptoms, or behaviors


For each target, we will focus on:

1. Identifying a specific image related to the target.

2. Recognizing the predominant emotions.

3. Noting physical sensations associated with the target.

4. Identifying negative self-beliefs and establishing positive affirmations to replace them.


Step Two: Processing


You will choose a target to work on during each session. By focusing on the image, emotion, and physical sensations associated with the target, we will engage in the processing stage using bilateral stimulation (hand vibrators). This process allows for the natural unfolding of thoughts and memories, leading to the reprocessing and reframing of distressing experiences.


Throughout the session, we will observe any new insights, emotions, or memories that arise and work together to facilitate a positive shift in your perception and beliefs. By the end of each session, you will experience a sense of empowerment and emotional release.


Post-Session Care


After each intensive session, it is recommended to:

- Avoid making plans for the rest of the day and prioritize rest and self-care.

- Limit exposure to social media or external stressors.

- Reflect on the insights gained during the session and set intentions for future personal growth.


Follow-up and Additional Sessions


The effects of EMDR processing may vary from subtle shifts to profound transformations. It is normal to feel a range of emotions during and after the sessions, as well as vivid dreams. If you feel the need for further EMDR work which is common and supported, additional sessions can be scheduled to address new targets or continue processing existing ones.


Preparation


There is no specific preparation required before the intensive sessions. Your willingness to engage in the process with an open mind and readiness to explore your inner experiences are the key factors for a successful session. If you feel compelled to prepare, you may reflect on the changes you wish to see in your life following the intensive.


Final Notes


EMDR intensives are a therapeutic journey towards healing and self-discovery. Embracing the process with trust and openness can lead to profound insights and positive change. Remember to prioritize self-care and allow yourself time to integrate the experiences from the sessions.


Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns leading up to the intensive sessions. I am here to support you on your healing path.


Is there research to support EMDR Intensives?


The short answer is: EMDR intensives are an effective, reliable & promising approach to treating PTSD quickly and with good patient retention rates.

  • Van Woudenberg C, Voorendonk EM, Bongaerts H, Zoet HA, Verhagen M, Lee CW, van Minnen A, De Jongh A. Effectiveness of an intensive treatment programme combining prolonged exposure and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2018 Jul 10;9(1):1487225.  

  •  Auren TJB, Klæth JR, Jensen AG, Solem S. Intensive outpatient treatment for PTSD: an open trial combining prolonged exposure therapy, EMDR, and physical activity. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2022 Oct 7;13(2):2128048.  

  • Zepeda Méndez M, Nijdam MJ, Ter Heide FJJ, van der Aa N, Olff M. A five-day inpatient EMDR treatment programme for PTSD: pilot study. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2018 Feb 5;9(1):1425575. 

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  • Hindawi Case Reports in Psychiatry Volume 2023, Article ID 8161010, 6 pages 

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  • de Jongh, A., Bicanic, I., Matthijssen, S., Amann, B. L., Hofmann, A., Farrell, D., Lee, C. W., & Maxfield, L. (2019). The Current Status of EMDR Therapy Involving the Treatment of Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(4), 284–290.  

  • de Jongh, A., Groenland, G. N., S. Sanches, H. Bongaerts, E. M. Voorendonk & A. Van Minnen (2020) The impact of brief intensive trauma-focused treatment for PTSD on symptoms of borderline personality disorder, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 11:1 

  • ‌Bongaerts, H., Voorendonk, E. M., Van Minnen, A., Rozendaal, L., Telkamp, B. S. D., & de Jongh, A. (2022). Fully remote intensive trauma-focused treatment for PTSD and Complex PTSD. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 13(2). 

  • Hurley, E.C. (2018).  Effective treatment of veterans with PTSD: Comparison between intensive daily and weekly EMDR approaches.  Frontiers in Psychology, 18.  

  • Wibbelink, C. J. M., Lee, C. W., Bachrach, N., Dominguez, S. K., Ehring, T., van Es, S. M., Fassbinder, E., Köhne, S., Mascini, M., Meewisse, M.-L., Menninga, S., Morina, N., Rameckers, S. A., Thomaes, K., Walton, C. J., Wigard, I. G., & Arntz, A. (2021).

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