EMDR is a fully developed form of psychotherapy, not a technique. Like with other forms of .therapy, general rules of it, such as good initial assessment, including history taking will of course apply. This can take a few sessions.
The reprocessing part of EMDR often involves experiencing strong emotions (that’s the key to its success) and so the therapist will teach the client all about feelings. Clients will find out what type of emotions there are, why we have them and how our body and brain behaves with different intensity of feeling.
Clients will learn how to cope with and regulate their emotional responses in preparation for reprocessing. To achieve that, the therapist will teach the client a variety of self-calming exercises for when we get overstimulated as well as techniques to activate ourselves when we feel numb and detached. Learning to do that is essential and takes different amounts of time with different clients.
Clients who were lucky enough to be brought up in circumstances where they were helped to manage their emotions (for example their caregivers generally responded when they were frightened or upset) can learn these techniques quickly, even within a session or two.
On the other end of the spectrum, clients who experiences prolonged neglect or abuse will naturally need a longer time to learn what they had never had a chance to achieve in childhood and adolescence.
Once we have a good understanding of what contributed to the client’s current difficulties (thorough assessment and history taking) and are confident that the client can manage their emotions well, we can start reprocessing the relevant memories.
Reprocessing involves holding the disturbing memory in mind while experiencing a form of bilateral stimulation (for example eye movements). The brain spontaneously makes new connections, it experiences and resolves past emotions and, in the end, we feel differently about the memory. We can think about it without being disturbed and we feel differently about ourselves too.
Once the past is resolved, we also attend to any present difficulties still remaining and future challenges lying ahead. This again is done using bilateral stimulation.