EMDR & EMDR Intensives

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a highly successful treatment for trauma that uses knowledge from neuroscience to help the brain reprocess traumatic memories.

EMDR clients share their stories:

“Healing Trauma” Public Awareness Film for EMDR Therapy (EMDRIA.org)

Traumatic memories are stored in their own encapsulated neural network in the brain. The brain cannot use its own healing processes to manage the memories, as the memories are “stuck.” The traumatized individual continues to react with high levels of anxiety, fear and distress when the memory is triggered. The “fight, flight, or flee” mechanism is then activated in the brain. From there, the brain perceives an active threat when the memory is triggered.

This neurological threat response is not something that is easily or consciously controlled. It is a basic survival instinct hard-wired into the brain. The person then responds with an array of traumatic symptoms. These can include anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, intrusive recollections of the event, mistrust, irritability or rage, and even detachment from loved ones.

EMDR works to connect the memory into what is called the “adaptive neural network.” The traumatic blocks are removed, and the brain’s natural healing can then begin. The memory becomes part of narrative memory.  A bad thing that happened a long time ago, that has little power anymore.

Is it Effective?

  • Some studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three sessions.
  • Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) after only six sessions.
  • In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.
  • EMDR is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense.
  • EMDR is effective for people not diagnosed with PTSD as well, who still are impacted by painful memories.

Treatment Frequency

Weekly 60 Minute Sessions: We offer traditional weekly one hour sessions for EMDR. This is the most common choice, and is often a good frequency around work and home schedules.  

Weekly 90 minute sessions: The formal EMDR protocol is based on 90 minutes, and is very effective with this length of time. Insurance typically will cover the extra time for clients who have a diagnosis of PTSD. Clients with other diagnoses who would still like the extra time will have 60 minutes go to insurance and the last 30 as self-pay. 

EMDR Intensives: This is a specialty service offered by Laura Swinford and Alison Leslie. 

What is an EMDR Intensive?

An intensive is a way to deliver treatment in an intensive but short period of time, such as a weekend, where multiple EMDR sessions per day are completed. New research shows that intensive therapy for trauma and stress can be extremely effective on symptom reduction. Our EMDR therapists are also trained in Polyvagal theory and Somatic Experiencing, and will frequently wind these modalities into the EMDR treatment to further reduce and resolve symptoms. (These are referred to as “interweaves”).


  • Research shows that clients completing intensive treatment can make as much progress in the condensed format as in standard weekly sessions. This can eliminate weeks or months of living with trauma symptoms, and with the toll this takes on work, relationships, marriages, parenting and general wellbeing.
  • Since sessions are completed over two or three days (typically one of the days is also a Saturday), it greatly reduces lost work time.
  • While there is a larger upfront cost, the shorter duration of treatment over all can save money.
  • Waiting lists in Bloomington are long for good trauma treatment providers. Intensives have much shorter wait times, as clients are through in the same week they start.
  • Intensives are being studied in the literature as a state of the art modality for trauma.
  • Clients who are out of town or out of state can take advantage of access to excellent treatment quickly, making only one trip to Bloomington.
  • Local clients who have transportation issues or childcare complications can also make arrangements for the single weekend. This eliminates the need to have ongoing help with children or rides to therapy. 

Match to Symptoms

While many clients are good candidates for an intensive, some may do better with an ongoing therapeutic relationship. Clients with long-term childhood abuse or neglect, who have had years of traumatic events, are typically not advised to do an Intensive. Some exceptions can be made for those currently under the care of a trusted provider that they can return to. Clients with this type of history can make progress on particular parts of events, but often are not finished with treatment and need to continue with their regular therapist following the intensive.

Ideal candidates are those who have had a single stressful or traumatic event, such as an assault, fire or car accident. 

Clinical Structure

Preparation Phase

  • Your therapist will do a strong assessment prior to your arrival for your intensive. Typically, this is two sessions, and is done through telehealth if you are out of town or cannot easily come to the office. If you are local, you are invited to do them in person at the office. Insurance typically covers these sessions (provided we are in-network).
  • Your therapist may also provide you with written assessment materials (typically a questionnaire) to help pinpoint targets for EMDR and your goals, as well as gather additional information about your background and history. Your therapist will also want to view relevant previous mental health records, and staff with your current therapist (if you have one).

Treatment Phase

  • The treatment phase of the intensive is typically three sessions per day, for either two or three days (depending on the severity of the symptoms and history of trauma). There will be breaks in between for meals, rest and self-care. 
  • Your therapist will provide you with a list of suggested activities in town that help re-regulate your nervous system after sessions, such as massage therapists, yoga classes, nature hiking areas and other options. Bloomington also has many good restaurants and frequently hosts events through the IU Auditorium, as well as many local events around town.


Insurance will typically cover some of the sessions, but the bulk of an intensive is self-pay. We will check your benefits and be able to give you an estimated cost, and we will file your claims for you for whatever part of the intensive is covered in your plan. The out of pocket cost is typically around $1000. Once we have verified your expected insurance benefits, we will take a retainer for the remaining cost.

If you are interested in learning more about Intensives or in scheduling this, please fill out our contact form and indicate this preference in the “reason for inquiry” section.

Specialized Training

EMDR requires specialized training. Most of the therapists at Spencer Psychology have received Level 1 and Level 2 specialized supervised training  through the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA).

Learn more at emdria.org.

EMDR Therapy Self Assessment Quiz

Do you have some unresolved issues? Could you benefit from EMDR therapy? To find out, take this brief self-test.

  1. Think of something that chronically bothers you.
  2. What negative feelings are you experiencing? Anxiety, sadness, panic, worry, agitation, anger, and frustration are common.
  3. What negative thought do you have? Common thoughts in unresolved issues are thoughts of being worthless, alone, not good enough, not safe, unvalued, trapped or powerless.
  4. Now, allow yourself to think back to an earlier time, perhaps sometime in childhood with your parents, when you felt and thought the same way. When was that time? Unprocessed memories often cluster together throughout the years, where an event today can trigger a cascade of other memories from earlier in your life.
  5. Does the memory create physical sensations in your body? Common somatic responses include nausea or tightness in your stomach, pressure or heaviness in your chest, heart rate increases, or a lump in your throat (caused by your autonomic nervous system activating from the memory).
  6. If you have identified an earlier time, on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is no disturbance and 10 is as high as you can imagine, how distressing are these feelings or body sensations right now?
  7. If you rated this memory at a “2” or higher, then that memory may be stuck and could benefit from being reprocessed with EMDR. If you rated that memory at a 3 or higher, that painful memory could be negatively impacting you.

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