Therapy is an essential component of drug treatment. Since trauma is a common underlying root of drug and alcohol addiction, therapy can help addicts uncover and work through their issues in a safe and supportive environment. While therapy options like CBT and Motivational Interviewing are commonplace, there are emerging therapy options that provide addicts with the breakthrough they need. A great example of an emerging therapy is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

History of EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy developed in the late 1980s by California psychologist Francine Shapiro. It is used primarily in the treatment of patients who suffered a single traumatic event, such as rape, or are currently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies, including those conducted by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, have shown that EMDR reduces PTSD symptoms in over 50% of patients. In the civilian population, 20 controlled outcome studies have put the figure at between 77-100%.

What is EMDR?

EMDR therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can help people work through the symptoms and emotional pain stemming from past traumatic events. Like other forms of psychotherapy, EMDR helps the mind heal as the body heals from the effects of trauma. This therapy helps the brain to restore the balance needed to cope with the stressors and trauma that manifest as a result of significant effects that happen in their lives.

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EMDR therapy is a multi-phase treatment in which eye movements and related stimulation of senses are the part of the focus. It revolves around the past, present, and future of the client with an emphasis of past disturbing memories and events. Additionally, EMDR focuses on those current situations that can cause distress and anxiety. Most importantly, this therapy helps clients develop the tools needed to create positive actions down the road. 

The goal of EMDR

When we experience a traumatic event, our psychological coping mechanisms may not be equipped to handle the thoughts and feelings that result and the memory of the event will be corrupted. Later on, when we remember the event, we will again be unable to adequately process the thoughts and feelings that ensue. Most patients report post-traumatic stress symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and/or nightmares. It is not uncommon that they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. The goal of EMDR is to help the patient properly process the memories and develop coping mechanisms that were absent during the event. The next time the person remembers the event, he or she will react in a healthier manner.

Although it integrates many successful elements of several therapeutic approaches, there are unique aspects of EMDR:  In particular, the therapist leads a patient in a series of lateral eye movements while the patient focuses on various aspects of a disturbing memory. The left-right eye movements in EMDR are a form of “bilateral stimulation.” Other forms of bilateral stimulation used by EMDR therapists include alternating bilateral sound using headphones and alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of the patient’s hands.

How long is the usual EMDR session?

The specialized therapist first reviews the patient’s history and assesses readiness for EMDR. Each session is generally between 60-90 minutes long, although shorter sessions can also be effective. During the preparation phase, the therapist works with the individual to identify a positive memory associated with feelings of safety or calm that can be used if distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered. Then the target traumatic memory for the session is accessed with attention to image, negative belief, and body sensations. Repetitive 30-second dual-attention exercises are conducted in which the patient attends to a motor task while focusing on the target traumatic memory and then on any related negative thoughts, associations, and body sensations.

Longness of EMDR Session

The therapist then directs the patient to think of a preferred positive belief regarding the incident and to focus on this positive belief while continuing with the exercises. The exercises end when the patient reports, with confidence, comfortable feel and a positive sense of self when recalling the target trauma. After reviewing the progress, the therapist and patient discuss scenarios or contexts that might trigger psychological distress. These triggers and positive images for appropriate future action are also targeted and processed. In addition, the therapist asks the client to keep a journal, noting any material related to the traumatic memory, and to focus on the previously identified positive safe or calm memory whenever psychological distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered.

With every new session, the therapist will reevaluate the work done in the prior session. The therapist will also assess how well the patient managed on his or her own in between visits. At this point, the therapist will decide whether it is best to continue working on previous targets or continue to newer ones.

How does EMDR work?

The underlying mechanism for how this process works to reduce trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression is unknown. Researchers have theorized that the positive effect is due to adaptive information processing, the theoretical model behind EMDR. Dual-attention exercises disrupt the client’s stored memory of the trauma and allow for an alteration of beliefs, emotions, and other symptoms associated with the memory. Once recall of the trauma no longer elicits negative beliefs, emotions, or other maladaptive symptoms the memory shifts to a more adaptive set of beliefs, emotions, and mechanisms, overwriting the original memory of the trauma.

As a skeptic, I am always aware of the old “if it’s too good to be true it probably is” school of thought. That said, I have found EMDR to be an extremely effective therapy both in my own case as a survivor of violent childhood sexual abuse and in the lives of others I have observed in the last decade.

You now know that eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy focuses on traumatic memories. But how does EMDR work on healing the deepening impact of these memories? How is this method more effective when it comes to working with people affected by trauma?

Think of your brain as a series of pathways that pass information around. These pathways are intended to give you information about your surroundings as quickly as possible. When you experience something, your brain stores it along with any related feelings or emotions, for accessing later.

Sometimes when a person experiences a traumatic event, their brain doesn’t build a proper pathway to pass information. Instead, there is a sort of “stuck” point with this memory. Rather than understanding the danger is over, the brain latches onto the heightened emotional and physiological responses. 

When the person finds themself in an experience that reminds them of the trauma, they find themselves back in this “stuck” spot. EMDR therapy looks at these dysfunctional areas and focuses treatment on healing these roadblocks in the brain. Therapists help clients form a new pathway to effectively process any future reminders.Video: About EMDR | Hawaii Island Recovery

The Process of EMDR Therapy

As already stated, EMDR therapy happens in several different phases. At the beginning, the therapist will perform a comprehensive assessment considering those earlier traumatic events and experiences as well as any current experiences. The therapists will then develop a treatment plan that will give the client the tools to work through these issues and to better equip them to handle current and future trauma and issues.

The Process of EMDR Therapy

Once that is established, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways to handle distress in a healthy manner. Techniques such as stress reduction and imaging can be taught between sessions. The therapist helps the client identify the vivid visual images related to the trauma, the negative belief centered on self that is related to the trauma, as well as the emotions and body sensations felt in relation to the traumatic event.

The client is instructed to focus on those specific events to be targeted by EMDR therapy. During those sessions, clients will focus on those thoughts and emotions while performing specific eye movements along with taps and other movements. Once completed, the therapist will ask the client to let their mind go blank and notice the thoughts and feelings that are happening spontaneously. When those thoughts are identified, the therapist will advise the client to refocus on that traumatic memory or move to another.

If the clients become anxious and stressed, the therapist helps the client come back to the present moment before moving on to another traumatic memory. It is believed those thoughts have less significance and become more manageable over time.

What Are the 8 Phases of EMDR

Clients usually attend therapy for the difficult behaviors they carried into their adult lives. But EMDR usually starts by targeting old childhood memories rather than current adulthood issues. Addressing these unhealed childhood memories often helps clients work through their present-day troubles.

EMDR therapy involves focus on the three different periods in time: past, present, and future.
First, clinicians work with their clients to look at traumatic memories from the past. Then they address the way those memories affect them in the present moment. Finally, clinicians help their clients develop the skills necessary to respond effectively in the future.

Treatment using EMDR therapy is broken down into 8 different phases. Each phase focuses on a specific portion of the therapeutic process and aims to move clients onto the next step in treatment.

Phase 1

All EMDR treatment begins with a history-taking assessment session for the first phase. The clinician collects information about their client’s past and evaluates their readiness for EMDR. Together the clinician and client determine which memories to consider targeting during the treatment process.

Clinicians usually focus on one specific memory during each course of treatment. Clients with single events tend to reach a resolution quickly while those with long-term cases or multiple instances of trauma require lengthier treatment time.

Phase 2

EMDR treatment tends to be a distressing process both during and in between sessions. It asks clients to pull traumatic memories from the past into their active mind. Clinicians want to ensure their client has ways to handle their emotional distress that results from this intensive treatment approach.

Clients work with their clinician to develop some emotional management skills to help them through the treatment process. One of the main goals of EMDR therapy is efficient treatment time. These skills involve stress reduction practices and techniques that help clients regulate their intense emotions in between sessions.

Phases 3 to 6

Phases 3 to 6 involve the core of the EMDR treatment process. Each client is asked to identify four things before starting:

  • An intense visual image associated with the target memory.
  • A negative belief they hold about themselves.
  • Resulting emotions and body sensations.
  • A positive believe to supplement the negative belief.

The clinician then asks the client to rate how deeply they hold the positive belief along with how intensely they feel the negative emotions. This gives a baseline report to work off as their client moves through the treatment process.

The client’s clinician then uses bilateral stimulation, whether it’s eye movements, tapping, or sounds, to engage the EMDR treatment. They are instructed to focus on their visual image, negative thought, and emotions and body sensations during the process.

Clinicians check in with the client after each set of bilateral stimulation and ask them to notice what comes up. This helps the clinician focus in on what to focus the next round on and the process starts again.

Sessions involves multiple sets of bilateral stimulation and check-ins. The goal of these three phases is to remove any distressing emotions related to the selected memory. Clinicians instead help their client associate the newfound positive belief instead.

Phase 7

During phase 7, clinicians request that their client keep a log during the week of anything that might come up. Whether it’s new memories, beliefs, ideas, or feelings, they want their client to write it down. This uncovers any possible material to work on during future sessions.

Phase 8

Phase 8 gives clients time to look at the progress they’ve made thus far. Clinicians and clients together look at where the client was when they first started treatment, where they are now, and what memories or beliefs to target next.

What Are the Side Effects of EMDR?
The side effects of EMDR therapy are minimal but they are something to consider. Remember that treatment requires the processing of traumatic memories; clients will face their mind head-on. Side effects of EMDR treatment include:

The exposure of distressing and unresolved memories

Unanticipated high levels of emotions or physical reactions or sensations
Dreams, flashbacks, or other memories may persist between sessions

Appropriate treatment takes these side effects into consideration. Clinicians prepare their clients for the process and help them select coping skills to use during the process. When EMDR treatment is successful, the side effects cease and clients are able to sit at ease.

How Successful is EMDR

EMDR shows high success rates according to various studies. The World Health Organization, American Psychiatric Association, and the Department of Veterans Affairs recommend using it to treat PTSD in particular.

Some studies show up to 90 percent of trauma survivors experiencing relief from symptoms of PTSD in as few as three sessions. Other studies from the EMDR Institute showed signs of relief after 6 to 12 sessions. Another study revealed EMDR treatment might be more effective for trauma victims than regular cognitive behavioral therapy.

What Happens in EMDR Therapy

The goal of EMDR therapy is to reclaim traumatic memories and reframe the way a client processes them. Put simply, sometimes people do not process through traumatic events properly and the memories cause distress over time.

During EMDR treatment, clinicians encourage clients to call these traumatic memories to mind. They work through the feelings and beliefs that result and reframe the event in their memory.

By recalling and reframing these memories, clinicians help clients relieve the physical and psychological responses that usually take place. This allows clients to live more fulfilled lives, less affected by their traumatic memories.

How Successful is EMDR

EMDR shows high success rates according to various studies. The World Health Organization, American Psychiatric Association, and the Department of Veterans Affairs recommend using it to treat PTSD in particular.

Some studies show up to 90 percent of trauma survivors experiencing relief from symptoms of PTSD in as few as three sessions. Other studies from the EMDR Institute showed signs of relief after 6 to 12 sessions. Another study revealed EMDR treatment might be more effective for trauma victims than regular cognitive behavioral therapy.

What Happens in EMDR Therapy

The goal of EMDR therapy is to reclaim traumatic memories and reframe the way a client processes them. Put simply, sometimes people do not process through traumatic events properly and the memories cause distress over time.

During EMDR treatment, clinicians encourage clients to call these traumatic memories to mind. They work through the feelings and beliefs that result and reframe the event in their memory.

By recalling and reframing these memories, clinicians help clients relieve the physical and psychological responses that usually take place. This allows clients to live more fulfilled lives, less affected by their traumatic memories.

Something to Consider Before Considering EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy does not rely on medications to be effective, so there are less in the way of side effects. However, this therapy creates a heightened awareness of vivid and often visceral memories and sensations. Therefore, it can cause some lightheadedness and can cause vivid dreams. Because of the focus on traumatic events and memories, people undergoing EMDR therapy may feel added stress and anxiety as they begin to uncover their trauma.

As with any type of therapy, people considering EMDR therapy should speak with a therapist or other licensed addiction professional. Since this type of therapy can require multiple sessions over longer periods of time, clients considering EMDR need to have the patience and fortitude to see this form of therapy to its conclusion.

HIR offers EMDR therapy as well as other holistic and traditional therapies and are effective and proven to work. Begin your healing journey today.

How Often are EMDR Sessions?

EMDR sessions tend to take place once per week, sometimes twice per week. The frequency depends on what a therapist and their client set up at the beginning while planning out treatment.

Some clients are able to come in and therapists have the availability to work with them more often. Still, it’s best to restrict the frequency of sessions to allow the client a proper amount of time to decompress.

EMDR sessions are an intense form of therapy and might cause significant distress on certain days. There is no need to overload or overwork a client; once or twice per week is an adequate number of weekly sessions of EMDR.

How Many Sessions are Necessary?

The number of EMDR sessions necessary for effective treatment depends on the person receiving treatment. Some people respond better to fast treatment methods than others. It also depends on the severity of the trauma and the length of time the person experienced it.

For example, someone seeking EMDR treatment for years of childhood abuse will likely need more sessions than someone who experienced a severe car accident. When someone spends years of their life living through abuse, their brain has lots to work through compared to a single event.

What Does EMDR Do To the Brain?

EMDR helps a person’s brain rewire the neural pathways that lead to and from a traumatic memory. A spot that once caused a person to get stuck finds itself smoothed out with the help of EMDR therapy.

Before seeking treatment, thinking about the traumatic memories might have led to anxiety, depression, or a panic attack. They also carry negative beliefs about themselves, often beliefs that aren’t true, as a result of their memories.

By walking clients through these difficult times in their life, therapists help them reframe their reaction to the event. They come out of EMDR treatment with a better understanding of themselves and feeling less reactive to memories of their trauma.

What is EMDR Used to Treat?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy originated in the late 1980s as a treatment method for processing traumatic memories. When people aren’t able or allowed to process their trauma properly, the brain heals in unhealthy ways.

This causes the memories to resurface at a later point, sometimes months or years after the original event. The person often experiences an overwhelming emotional response or physical reactions if they find themselves in a situation that triggers their traumatic memories.

Traumatic experiences also cause a person to carry negative beliefs about themselves. They might try to take responsibility for the event or feel guilty for not responding in a different way. Their brain struggles to find a place to rest amidst grappling with the trauma.

If someone comes to see a therapist for help with overcoming their past trauma, the therapist will likely consider EMDR as a treatment method. It’s a therapy modality specifically created to work with patients who struggle with traumatic memories.

Who is EMDR Appropriate For?

Who is EMDR appropriate for? Which conditions can EMDR help? EMDR is an appropriate treatment method for a variety of mental illnesses depending on the cause of the condition. It is a life-changing therapy modality for some but isn’t helpful in every case.

For example, EMDR would not help someone who has clinical depression caused by a chemical imbalance. If their depression resulted from a traumatic event in their past, though, then it would be useful.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy will help anyone with a past trauma that still affects them today. Regardless of the condition that results from their trauma, EMDR can target the problematic memories. Therapists work through the troubling memories with which tends to relieve the illnesses they cause.

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EMDR was created in the 1980s specifically for clients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Although it can be beneficial for clients with other illnesses, EMDR for PTSD is an ideal method of treatment.

Post-traumatic stress disorder results directly from living through a traumatic event. Clients with severe forms of PTSD don’t necessarily respond to traditional therapeutic approaches. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t as effective for treating as it is for depression or anxiety.

Clinicians realized the existing treatment modalities at the time were lacking when it came to helping clients with PTSD. They worked to find a new approach more fitted to walking a client through reprocessing their traumatic memories.

EMDR for PTSD has become the go-to plan of a treatment since it first emerged. In fact, it’s the American Psychiatric Association’s recommended treatment method for clients who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Clinicians use EMDR therapy for PTSD by targeting specific memories that plague the client. The clinician and client work together to determine how to approach therapy and which memories to work through. They follow the traditional 8-phase EMDR process and gauge where the client is throughout the course of treatment.

EMDR for Anxiety

Severe anxiety often results from surviving a traumatic event. Some people may find they never develop full-blown PTSD but still deal with an ongoing anxiety disorder. EMDR for anxiety may be an effective treatment method as long as their anxiety disorder is a direct result of their traumatic memories.

Clinicians approach EMDR for anxiety in the same fashion, taking clients through all 8 phases of the process. If a client has multiple traumatic memories, they discuss which memories to work through first. Usually clinicians work through these events from most to least distressing.

EMDR for Depression

Depression is a condition that might be caused by a few different things.
Some people live with clinical depression that results from a chemical imbalance in their brain. Others experience situational depression caused by a certain condition or event, such as a traumatic experience.

EMDR for depression is similar to EMDR for anxiety: it will only help people whose depression is a direct result of living through trauma. If a client comes in for help with their depression, and the clinician thinks it might be caused by a traumatic memory, they might try EMDR.

It’s up to the clinician’s discretion to determine what the most effective course of treatment will be. If you’re struggling with trauma-induced depression, finding a therapist who specializes in EMDR might be a helpful step.

EMDR for Addiction

People who live with a substance or alcohol use disorder have been through many different experiences. Trauma is a common part of the lives of many people with addiction disorders. Using EMDR for addiction is a common way to treat individuals with substance or alcohol problems.

When someone attends treatment, their therapist at the facility will cover their history and what brought them to treatment. The therapist will determine whether EMDR for addiction will be a beneficial treatment modality during their initial sessions.

Why is EMDR Effective?

EMDR differs from other common forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral or dialectical behavior therapy. It doesn’t ask clients to talk at length or in extensive detail about their traumatic memories like some other methods do. Therapists use EMDR as a way to guide their clients through a reprocessing phase.

The method doesn’t look only at the thoughts, behaviors, or emotions that are symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It focuses specifically on the traumatic memories that cause those symptoms in the first place. EMDR therapy provides a space for clients to face these distressing memories head-on and heal what was left unhealed.

It doesn’t place a band-aid over the client’s symptoms in the way that medication or some therapeutic approaches do. EMDR empowers clients to re-evaluate the impact their memories have in order to eliminate the problem at the source.

Some research explains compares EMDR to prolonged exposure therapy, once the standard for treating clients with PTSD. One study of 22 patients found EMDR a more effective treatment than prolonged exposure, but encouraged further study in the future.

Why use EMDR Therapy?

Traditional approaches like CBT aren’t the most effective when it comes to treating trauma-related cases. Talk therapy helps individuals with depression or anxiety process through their current state. Individuals with trauma have an affected current state but the cause lies in their memories.

This doesn’t mean there is no other way to treat people with PTSD or other trauma-related conditions. But why use EMDR therapy? It was specifically created for individuals who suffer in their everyday life as a result of past trauma.

EMDR places all its intervention focus on reprocessing and healing a client’s distressing past experiences. EMDR therapy should be the first therapeutic method used to treat a client who struggles with traumatic

What to Expect After Treatment

Oftentimes clients come in experiencing anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks, or other symptoms that impact their ability to function. The ultimate goal of EMDR therapy is to relieve or remove the impact of past trauma on a client’s everyday life.

After completing EMDR treatment, clients should expect few to no symptoms that brought them into their therapist’s office. Hopefully, they should have the ability to face life successfully without fearing interruption from their past memories.

They also leave treatment with a change in their beliefs about themselves. Prior to treatment, traumatic memories often cause people to feel shame, guilt, or self-blame. Successful EMDR treatment helps these individuals remove these false beliefs and replace them with positive, supportive, and accurate ideas about themselves.

Overall, clients should feel more safe and secure in themselves following successful treatment with EMDR. They should feel more positively about themselves, less impacted by their trauma, and less reactive to the unknowns in life around them.

Fernando Manon During EMDR session
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Research & Theories

Researchers have conducted multiple studies on the effectiveness of EMDR therapy both on its own and compared to other methods. Despite the extensive studies over previous years, additional research furthering the understanding of EMDR is encouraged.

Again, multiple studies look at the similarities between prolonged exposure therapy and EMDR. The two approaches share commonalities but EMDR separates itself by incorporating the eye movement portion of treatment. One theory claims that eye movements have little effect on the exposure theory approach as a whole.

Still, the Department of Veterans Affairs supports treatment of PTSD with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. The American Psychiatric Association also encourages the use of EMDR in its PTSD treatment guidelines.

Continued research on the efficacy of EMDR is encouraged, as it is with all other treatment methods. Researchers and clinicians alike are always searching for the most successful ways to help their clients. Further study will reveal whether EMDR will continue to hold its place as the suggested method of treatment.

Evidence for EMDR

Researchers released a study in 2015 surrounding the treatment of depression with EMDR. They found that 68 percent of the individuals studied experienced full remission after the treatment period was over. These individuals experienced significant relief from depressive symptoms. They also showed less problems and relapses after a 1-year follow-up.

One study of 22 people conducted in 2012 showed that EMDR relieved the symptoms of PTSD in 77 percent of participants. They experienced relief from anxiety, depression, delusions, hallucinations, and low self-esteem that brought them into treatment. Additionally, there were no signs of self-harm or suicide attempt following treatment.

Again, the length of time that EMDR treatment remains effective is an important concern. Another study from 2004 looked at individuals treated for PTSD after both 3- and 6-month follow-up periods. They found that even with limited sessions, the benefits of EMDR maintained after treatment ended.

EMDR is most often recommended for people seeking treatment for conditions such as PTSD or trauma-related anxiety or depression. EMDR therapy would not be recommended for people who have no history of trauma that might be causing their symptoms.

Some therapists use EMDR to treat people with substance or alcohol use disorder, but it isn’t a SUD- or AUD-focused treatment. Instead, it works through some of the traumas that might lead a person to turn to substances or alcohol as a solution.

Ultimately, EMDR treatment was created to help people reprocess their unhealed traumatic memories. If someone has no trauma in their past, the therapy modality will have nothing to work off of. EMDR therapy is not recommended for people who have no history of traumatic memories.

Where to Get EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy is available across the country from a number of different therapists. There are certification courses that provide clinicians with the appropriate training to conduct EMDR therapy sessions. Finding a therapist certified in EMDR will ensure you’re receiving the best therapy possible, as well as in line with the recommendations for the therapy method.

People seeking treatment for substance or alcohol abuse will often find EMDR offered as an option for therapy. Those who struggle with substances oftentimes have some form of trauma in their past. Substance and alcohol use helps people cope with difficult emotions and those in addiction treatment often did just that.

If you’re interested in seeking help with EMDR therapy, you can search online for a list of certified therapists near you. Another option is to call your insurance company to find out what your policy covers and whether they have a list of therapists covered in your network.

Fernando Manon During EMDR session
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How to Prepare for EMDR

Although it can be unnerving to go into therapy knowing you’re going to face some terrifying memories, your therapist will help you prepare. It might seem like a good idea to get ready for EMDR before attending a session, but sometimes it’s the opposite.

Preparing for EMDR therapy on your own outside the recommendations of your therapist might affect treatment. Sometimes people find they get tied up in overthinking treatment. They might stress themselves out about what they have to work through before they even arrive at their therapist’s office.

Preparation for EMDR therapy is one of the phases of treatment. You don’t need to prepare yourself beforehand because your therapist will create a specific plan for you. The two of you will work together to determine the best ways for you to manage and regulate your emotions and thoughts in between sessions.

EMDR Clinicians

EMDR clinicians are therapists and psychologists who are certified to use EMDR therapy to treat their clients. They have attended training courses and received the certification necessary to
provide proper and effective treatment with EMDR.


EMDR incorporates all three periods of time in a person’s life: past, present, and future. In order to achieve the best results possible, a therapist wants to equip their client with the ability to regulate their responses to difficult situations. Developing skills to cope with their past during the present moment encourages a stronger response in the future.

If you aren’t familiar with EMDR, you might have a few different questions about the process and its side effects. It works with people who have a complicated, layered mental illness so it’s understandable that you might be curious.

Can EMDR Cause Depression?

EMDR therapy encourages a client to face their distressing memories head-on. They may have spent months or years avoiding thinking about the things they must face for successful treatment.

A large portion of therapy involves reprocessing the unhealed traumatic memories that many people run from. Because of this, experiencing some emotional distress between therapy sessions is a common side effect. It isn’t a full-on case of depression but challenges are to be expected when working through trauma.

But an educated and effective EMDR therapist prepares their client for these moments. Before starting treatment, they teach their client some healthy and effective coping mechanisms to use between sessions.

Clients are aware of and prepared for any distress that may arise during the times before their next session. Any distress is temporary, though, as the long-term goal of EMDR is to return clients to their everyday lives uninterrupted by PTSD.

Can EMDR Cause Psychosis?

EMDR is a method used to treat psychosis, not cause it. The idea of facing traumatic memories in order to work through them might seem like it could cause a psychotic episode. Therapists are aware of the challenging nature of the modality, though. They will use it only with those who will benefit from the intensive but effective method.

Therapists check in with their clients weekly and monitor how they respond to treatment not only during their time together but in the days between sessions as well. They look for any signs of increased agitation, anxiety, or depression that treatment might cause.

EDMR does not cause psychosis, though, when a therapist is properly trained. They understand the nature of the cases that come into their office. Therapists who use EMDR in their practice are trained to work with clients and guide them in a positive direction.

Can EMDR Be Harmful?

There may be some challenges if a therapist is poorly trained or does not prepare their client for a treatment session. People uncover their most difficult memories in EMDR sessions. This often causes difficult physical and emotional responses as they process through these challenging moments of their past.

Trauma responses are the result of stuffing for months or years at a time. Suddenly facing these memories, even in the presence of a therapist, is overwhelming. If a therapist doesn’t prepare their client with the coping skills to handle these responses, EMDR might be harmful.

Thankfully, a therapist who is properly trained in the EMDR method understands how to prepare their client. They set up a plan with their client from the beginning and follow through on what they set up. Clients have plenty of opportunities to express and work through any difficulties that might arise during their treatment process.

Effective EMDR therapists know how to handle the wide range of responses people have to trauma. Their goal is to relieve and eventually eliminate a client’s physical and emotional reactions to their traumatic memories. When conducted properly, EMDR is not a harmful therapy modality.

Can EMDR Make You Tired?

Some clients feel tired after attending an EMDR session. The work involved in uncovering and reprocessing difficult memories for an hour makes EDMR therapy an emotionally taxing method of therapy.

After sitting with a therapist and reframing the understanding of an event, many clients need to go home and rest. Working through unhealed parts of the mind is an exhausting process and taking care of yourself between sessions is important.

EMDR might cause some drowsiness or sleepiness following a session. Due to the intense emotional nature of sessions as well, it’s best to attend a session when you have some time to decompress or take a nap afterward.

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