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  • EMDR: The Importance of Assessing Client Readiness (Stability)

    Trauma Therapy in Smyrna Georgia

    EMDR therapy has gained recognition for its effectiveness in helping people recover from traumatic experiences. But before diving into this therapy, it’s crucial for EMDR practitioners to assess their clients’ stability. Assessing client stability ensures their safety and the success of the treatment. In this blog post, we’ll explore why assessing client stability is so important in EMDR therapy.

    Understanding EMDR Therapy

    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, was initially developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987 for the treatment of Post Traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD) and is guided by the Adaptive  Information model (Shapiro 2007). The Adaptive Information Processing model considers symptoms of PTSD to result from past disturbing experiences that continue to cause distress because the memory was not adequately processed. These unprocessed memories contain the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and physical sensations that occurred at the time of the traumatic experience. When the memories are triggered by present day stimuli, the stored negative elements of past experiences are re-experienced and cause the symptoms of PTSD and other disorders. During EMDR therapy, a trained clinician will facilitate eye movements and other forms of rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation (tones or taps) while clients briefly focus on the traumatic memory. Thus resulting in the vividness and emotion of the memory being reduced.

    The Role of Client Stability Assessment

    Emotional Readiness: EMDR therapy involves delving into distressing memories and emotions. Assessing client stability helps determine if they’re ready for this type of therapy. Clients in acute crisis or severe emotional distress may need stabilization interventions or alternative treatments before starting EMDR. Assessing stability ensures a strong foundation for the therapy process.

    Creating a Safe Space: Safety is crucial in any therapy, including EMDR. Clients with a history of severe trauma, dissociation, or co-occurring mental health issues may be more vulnerable during EMDR. By assessing stability, therapists can identify safety concerns and implement strategies to make the client feel secure and supported throughout the therapy.

    Identifying Co-occurring Issues: It’s important to be aware of any co-occurring issues or disorders that may affect client stability. Conditions like substance abuse, psychosis, or ongoing domestic violence need consideration before using EMDR. Assessing stability allows therapists to address these issues properly and create a personalized treatment plan focused on safety and well-being.

    Tailoring Treatment: Each client is unique, with different needs and capacities. Assessing stability provides insights into the client’s overall functioning and resources. This helps tailor the EMDR treatment plan to their specific requirements. Therapists can adjust the therapy’s pace, intensity, and complexity to match the client’s current stability level.

    Preventing Re-traumatization: EMDR therapy aims to process and reframe traumatic memories, but if clients aren’t adequately stabilized, they may be at risk of re-traumatization. Assessing stability helps therapists identify triggers or vulnerabilities that could hinder progress or worsen symptoms. By addressing these issues beforehand, therapists can reduce the risk of re-traumatization and provide a safe healing environment.


    Assessing of stability is a crucial step in EMDR therapy. It ensures clients are emotionally ready, establishes a safe environment, identifies co-occurring issues, tailors treatment, and prevents re-traumatization. Prioritizing client stability allows EMDR therapists to optimize therapy effectiveness and support clients on their journey to healing and recovery. The time it takes to assess stability can vary greatly depending on a myriad of factors specific to the person receiving treatment.It is of my own opinion that stability should be initially assessed in phases 1-2 but also continually assessed throughout EMDR treatment (phases 3-8).

    If you or someone you know is considering EMDR therapy, it’s important to consult with a qualified mental health professional who can assess suitability and safety based on individual circumstances. Therapists need specialized training to understand the ins and outs of the assessment and treatment process with EMDR.  I am certified as an EMDR therapist by the professional association EMDRIA. I provide trauma therapy in Smyrna or via telehealth throughout Georgia.

    Please reach out to me at isom@ca4wellbeing if you are curious if EMDR therapy might be a fit.  I would be happy to help.

    Therapist at Associate Counseling in GA