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.

Traumatic memories live in their own encapsulated neural network in the brain. The brain cannot use its healing processes to manage the memories, as the memories “stick.” A traumatized individual reacts with high levels of anxiety, fear and distress with memory triggers. With a trigger, the “fight, flight, or flee” mechanism activates in the brain. From there, the brain will perceive an active threat with the memory trigger.

EMDR clients share their stories:

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

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 the “adaptive neural network.” Removal of the the traumatic blocks occur, and the brain’s natural healing begins. 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.
  • One 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 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 also effective for people not diagnosed with PTSD but are still 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, and who would still like extra time, 60 minutes are billed to insurance and the last 30 minutes are billed as self-pay. 

Online EMDR

Prior to Covid, we already provided EMDR services online. Much of the preparation needed for EMDR includes careful discussions with your therapist about goals, trauma/stress targets, trauma maps, and shoring up internal resources.

The bilateral stimulation works in an online format with traditional eye movements (visual bilateral movements), self-tapping (tactile bilateral stimulation) or with an inexpensive phone app and headphones  (auditory bilateral stimulation). Your therapist will help you decide which modality is best for you. Both the research and our own anecdotal information from our clients indicate EMDR is remarkably effective in clearing trauma and distress from the nervous system when done online.

What is an EMDR Intensive?

An intensive delivers treatment in short period of time, with multiple EMDR sessions per day. Typically, these treatments occur on a weekend. New research shows that intensive therapy for trauma and stress can be extremely effective in reducing symptoms. Our EMDR therapists have trained in Polyvagal Theory and Somatic Experiencing, and incorporate these modalities into the EMDR treatment. This type of treatment is known as “interweaves”, which further reduce and resolve symptoms.


  • Research shows that clients completing intensive treatment can make as much progress in the condensed format as in standard weekly sessions. This can remove weeks or months of living with trauma symptoms. The intensive treatment also helps with the toll trauma takes with work, relationships, marriages, parenting and general well-being.
  • Sessions complete over two or three days which greatly reduces work time. Typically, one of the days is also a Saturday.
  • While a larger upfront cost, the shorter duration of treatment can result in saving 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 as a state-of-the-art modality for trauma.
  • Clients who are in Indiana or Illinois can take advantage of access to excellent treatment quickly by making only one trip to Bloomington.
  • Local clients who have transportation issues or childcare concerns can also make arrangements for the single weekend. The weekend timeline removes 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, and/or have had years of traumatic events, are usually not advised to do an intensive treatment. In some cases, exceptions are made for those currently under the care of a trusted provider. Clients with this type of history can make progress on particular parts of events. In many cases, they need to continue with their regular therapist following the intensive treatment.

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 an assessment first.
  • Your therapist may also provide you with written assessment materials (usually a list of several questions). Using this assessment will help define targets for EMDR and your goals, while gathering additional information about your background and history. Additionally, 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 usually three sessions per day over a weekend. There will be breaks in between for meals, rest and self-care. 
  • Your therapist will provide you with a list of suggested activities that help re-regulate your nervous system after sessions. These activities include massage therapists, yoga classes, nature hiking areas and other options. Other activities in Bloomington also include many good restaurants and events through the IU Auditorium, as well as many local events around town.


Intensives are $2100 self-pay. Insurance does not cover the costs, as intensives are not part of coverage plans and there are also no insurance codes for intensives for billing. Consequently, clients cannot submit claims to insurance themselves.

To learn more about Intensives, please fill out our contact form and note “intensive EMDR” in the “reason for inquiry” section.

The EMDR Intensives specialty service is provided by Laura Swinford

Specialized Training

EMDR requires special training. Most of the therapists at Spencer Psychology have received at least Level 1 and Level 2 specialized supervised training through the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA). Several of our therapists have completed advanced training and certification.

Learn more at emdria.org.