Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (2023)

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (1)Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a short-term type of exposure therapy used primarily in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias.

EMDR essentially rewires your brain to remove the negative emotional charge of a traumatic event so that you can remember the details of the event without feelings of distress.

In this article, we will explore EMDR therapy in depth. We will compare it with other therapies, check its efficacy, and look into training with a short list of useful apps for you to explore.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive CBT Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will provide you with detailed insight into Positive CBT and give you the tools to apply it in your therapy or coaching.

This Article Contains:

  • What Is EMDR Therapy?
  • How Does It Work?
  • Is EMDR Effective? A Look at the Research
  • Are There Dangers or Side Effects?
  • Does It Work for Children?
  • How to Do an EMDR Session + Process
  • Training in EMDR Therapy
  • EMDR vs. Hypnosis
  • EMDR + Mindfulness
  • 5 Apps and 2 Virtual EMDR Options
  • A Note on Self-Administered EMDR
  • A Take-Home Message
  • References

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is a type of trauma therapy that was discovered by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. Dr. Shapiro noticed that certain repetitive eye movements, when paired with distressing thoughts, would reduce the intensity of those thoughts.

She observed her behavior when thinking of upsetting thoughts, and she noticed that her eyes naturally began to move quickly back and forth. She hypothesized that when a person is faced with a traumatic situation, they may feel overwhelmed, and their normal coping mechanisms may not work.

When this happens, distressing thoughts and memories may be stored in the brain as a sensory memory rather than a factual memory. Since traumatic sensory memories may continue to overwhelm an individual, she suggested that EMDR therapy would help remove the emotionality associated with these memories, and the brain would be able to store the event in a more logical form.

By removing the feelings and sensations associated with the traumatic memory, the person would be able to recall the event alone without the distressing emotions. EMDR is often used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, or phobias.

How Does It Work?

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (2)EMDR is based on the adaptive information processing model, which postulates that negative thoughts and feelings are due to unprocessed memories (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; van den Hout & Engelhard, 2012).

Bilateral stimulation is paired with distressing memories to change beliefs about the event by alternately activating each half of the brain in order to create new neural connections (van den Hout & Engelhard, 2012).

Although EMDR originally began with eye movements, now several types of bilateral sensory input may be used (Parnell, 2013).

These may include asking a client to follow the practitioner’s moving finger with their eyes, a machine with lights that move back and forth, alternate taps to the client’s knees, or handheld vibrating pods that alternate the vibration and have adjustable speeds and intensities. The type of bilateral stimulation usually depends on the practitioner and client preference.

The adaptive processing model suggests that the body has a natural inclination to heal itself, like a wound forming a scab. However, traumatic memories may be stored in a raw sensory form in the limbic system, rather than as a semantic memory (Shapiro, 2002; van den Hout & Engelhard, 2012).

As long as the memory is stored in its raw form, the person will continue to feel distressed. When the sensory memory is paired with bilateral stimulation of the body, it lowers physiological arousal and allows the body to move the memory from an emotional form to a more logical form (van den Hout & Engelhard, 2012).

After EMDR treatment, a client should be able to remember the facts of a traumatic memory without feeling the previously associated distressing sensations, thoughts, or feelings.

Clients report starting a course with a low sense of self, due to feelings of hopelessness and a loss of control over the traumatic event. After EMDR therapy treatment, clients often report a greater sense of control and higher self-worth (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; van den Hout & Engelhard, 2012).

Is EMDR Effective? A Look at the Research

Since it is a relatively new treatment model, there is still some question as to the efficacy of EMDR.

Current research suggests that EMDR is as effective as some types of Exposure Therapy, as effective as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and more effective than selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors alone (van der Kolk et al., 2007; Seidler & Wagner, 2006).

Currently, the International Society for Stress Studies, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, all recommend EMDR for the treatment of PTSD.

Are There Dangers or Side Effects?

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (3)EMDR must be administered by a trained and certified practitioner to reduce the potential for side effects.

Potential side effects include vivid dreams or nightmares after a session, since the mind may continue processing the information during the REM stage of sleep (Parnell, 2013). Clients should be warned of the possibility of vivid dreams.

Other potential dangers include emotional distress during a session when the client is re-experiencing the traumatic event (Taylor et al., 2003).

Some emotional distress is expected in similar types of exposure therapy, and the distress is usually short lived. During an EMDR session, a client may feel temporarily worse, but a skilled practitioner will be able to use the installed safety protocols to avoid overwhelming distress in the client.

EMDR sessions tend to be twice as long as traditional therapy sessions so that a client has time to fully process a memory during one session (Shapiro, 2002). A client should leave each session feeling more empowered and calmer than they initially felt.

Does It Work for Children?

EMDR works very well for children, with some adaptation.

Clinicians must explain the process in a developmentally appropriate way. However, since EMDR is a sensory-based therapy, it can be used even with nonverbal children or those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (Gomez, 2012; Shapiro, 2007).

Clinicians who are interested in EMDR for children should consider reading EMDR Therapy and Adjunct Approaches with Children: Complex Trauma, Attachment, and Dissociation by Dr. Ana Gomez (2012).

How to Do an EMDR Session + Process

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (4)EMDR is an eight-phase treatment model (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013).

Sessions often last 90 minutes, rather than the traditional 45-minute psychotherapy session. Some clients may feel relief in as few as six EMDR sessions (Shapiro, 2007).

The treatment model includes client history taking, client preparation, assessment, desensitization, body scan, closure, and re-evaluation of the treatment (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007). During the client preparation phase, the clinician will be sure to address the EMDR safety protocols by establishing images or memories that the client may return to whenever the trauma therapy becomes overwhelming (Parnell, 2013).

Phase one

The first phase is taking a client’s history and planning the course of treatment (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013). The clinician is looking for a suitable target to begin the EMDR therapy and any background information that may be causing the maladaptive behavior to continue (secondary gains).

The clinician will want to identify the most distressing memory and target that first, whether it’s an early childhood memory or a current trauma. EMDR works as sequential processing, so when the correct target is processed, subsequent stressors will also be addressed.

Phase two

The second phase is about client preparation (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013). Since EMDR is a type of trauma therapy, the therapeutic alliance between the clinician and client is crucial. This is the phase when the clinician will engage the client in the therapeutic process and establish a rapport.

During this phase, the therapist explains the EMDR process to the client and will teach techniques to close an incomplete session.

Phase three

The third phase is the assessment phase, when the therapist and client decide together which will be the first memory that is targeted (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013). This is often the most distressing memory but during a discussion of the trauma, they may find that an earlier childhood memory is the root cause of the distress, in which case that memory would be targeted instead.

The client will identify the most distressing image of the traumatic event (like a photograph) and the negative beliefs associated with that memory. Positive beliefs, as a goal, may also be included in this phase. The client and therapist will discuss the validity of cognitions (VOC), which identifies how realistic their negative beliefs really are.

Often the VOC is skipped when working with children, since they may have a difficult time with this abstract concept (Gomez, 2012; Parnell, 2013). They will also identify the subjective units of disturbance (SUD), which is a subjective measurement of how distressing the memory is.

The SUD will be measured again later in the process, and this is how the therapist will be able to identify how the client is progressing in treatment. Safety protocols (identifying a safe place, wise person, etc.) that the client can later mentally call up during the fourth phase are discussed in this phase.

Phase four

The fourth phase is the desensitization phase, when the client is asked to pair the distressing memory with therapist-directed bilateral stimulation (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013).

This is to change the traumatic event from a sensory experience to a purely factual experience so that the emotionality of the event is removed and the client can remember the facts without feeling overwhelmed by their feelings.

Self-efficacy, a sense of control, and empowerment are also addressed in this phase. The therapist must make sure that the client stays within the locus of control while challenging their beliefs.

This is when the safety protocols may come into play; if the client starts feeling distressed by their memories, they can “bring in” a wise person, spirit animal, or another avatar to help soothe them and help them safely navigate their memory.

Phase five

The fifth phase is the installation phase, when the VOC is again addressed, to replace negative self-beliefs with more positive ones (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007).

Phase six

The sixth phase is the body scan, when the client is asked to recall the original distressing image and to see if there is still any sensory memory associated with the image (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013).

If there are still body sensations associated with the memory, any somatic memories, the target image has not been fully processed yet. The client and therapist will identify if the memory simply needs more processing or if there is another target memory that is more salient and needs to be addressed first.

Phase seven

The seventh is the closure phase. This phase is when self-control techniques that were learned in an earlier session are reviewed and reinstalled (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013). The purpose is to return the client from a state of unrest to a state of equilibrium.

Self-soothing and calming techniques are reviewed during this phase, in case the client has any unprocessed feelings or to help when new stressors emerge. The client is asked to keep a record of any disturbances, dreams, uncomfortable body sensations, thoughts, or feelings to address in a future session.

Phase eight

The eighth and final phase is the re-evaluation phase, when the client and therapist review which aspects of the treatment are helping the most and identify other targets that may need to be addressed (Shapiro, 2002; Shapiro, 2007; Parnell, 2013).

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Training in EMDR Therapy

EMDR certification requires having an advanced mental health license, taking several theory classes, and direct application of EMDR and multiple sessions with an EMDR supervisor.

The EMDR International Associationcertifies practitioners in the model. Although there is one primary certifying body, there are a couple of schools, such as the Parnell Institute, that provide EMDR training to prepare clinicians for certification.

EMDR vs. Hypnosis

EMDR is very similar to hypnosis in many ways (Harford, 2010).

In EMDR, the client is asked to go into a relaxing, trance-like state to mindfully recall the sensory information that they gathered during a traumatic event. The trance is an integral part of EMDR because without it, the client will feel a heightened emotional response, over-activate the limbic system, and will not be able to process the disturbing memory adaptively.

It is the practitioner’s job to keep the client in a semi-hypnotic state that allows the client to recall the distressing event while maintaining a sense of control over the situation (Parnell, 2013).

The hypnotic suggestion that the client may use safety protocols to better understand the facts of the situation (rather than seeing them even through a purely emotional lens) is what allows the client to maintain a sense of calm and control throughout the session (Harford, 2010).

This helps the clinician maintain a goal and directive for the session and help guide the client through their healing process. Like hypnotherapy, the clinician does not need to hear or know all the facts of the traumatic event, as long as the client is aware of the sensations, feelings, and thoughts involved in the event.

EMDR + Mindfulness

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (7)A significant aspect of EMDR is the focus on body sensations when recalling distressing memories (van der Kolk et al., 2007).

A typical EMDR session will have the client recalling mindful images of traumatic events, including smells, sights, tastes, and odors.

Clients who already have practice with mindfulness may be more comfortable doing EMDR since they already are more in tune with their surroundings (Sun & Chiu, 2006). Although EMDR does not typically have homework, it may benefit clients to practice mindfulness meditation throughout the day.

Even though EMDR asks clients to focus on being mindful, EMDR tends to be more goal oriented than self-practiced mindfulness.

5 Apps and 2 Virtual EMDR Options

Several apps use EMDR-type techniques to help treat anxiety. These should be used as a supplement to regular EMDR treatment or to treat lesser phobias and stressors. A certified EMDR practitioner should treat complex trauma, phobias, and PTSD.

1. Anxiety Release Based on EMDR

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (8)Anxiety Release Based on EMDR is available in the Google Play Storeor the Apple App Store.

This app focuses on relieving anxiety through bilateral stimulation. Features include guided instructions and a brain training session. It can be used by clients and

2. EyeMove EMDR Therapy

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (9)EyeMove EMDR Therapy is available in the Google Play Store.

This app lets you choose an object to observe and alter the color, speed, and size to suit your needs.

3. EMDR Therapy

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (10)EMDR Therapy is available in the Apple App Store.

It utilizes both images and sounds to integrate bilateral stimulation into your session. It has features suited for both children and adults.

4. Virtual EMDR

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (11)Virtual EMDR is available in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

It is an audio-only meditation tool that uses bilateral auditory stimulation to help people find release from overwhelming stressors.

5. EMDR 101

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (12)EMDR 101 is available in the Apple App Store.

It provides guided EMDR sessions in combination with bilateral visual stimulation to help people work through difficult issues. It can be used by a client alone or a client and clinician together.

6. remotEMDR

Your Ultimate EMDR Guide (Incl. Techniques & Exercises) (13) is a leading EMDR telehealth site that allows a clinician to control and administer EMDR remotely when working with clients off-site.

7. is an online site that allows a clinician to control a light-bar via the internet to provide EMDR services remotely.

A Note on Self-Administered EMDR

Any type of bilateral stimulation can be helpful in the processing of traumatic or stressful memories. Self-administered EMDR can include walking, jogging, drum circles, tapping (bilaterally), and even horseback riding.

Anything that has a rhythmic activation of alternating sides of the body may be used for self-administered EMDR (Parnell, 2008).

Again, complex traumas, severe phobias, and PTSD should be treated by a certified professional. But anyone who experiences minor stressors, anxiety, or traumas may feel relief when pairing bilateral stimulation while focusing on that stressor.

The person may feel a sense of clarity or relief as a result of combining the distressing thoughts with movements (Parnell, 2008).

A Take-Home Message

We all naturally participate in some form of bilateral stimulation daily (walking, swimming, dancing).

EMDR utilizes our natural biological healing to help us process unwanted, disturbing thoughts, feelings, and memories (Parnell, 2008).

Although minor stressors can be self-treated, severe traumas, phobias, and PTSD should be addressed by a certified clinician.

EMDR is a fast-paced therapy, and clients may find relief in as few as six sessions. Although research is ongoing, many studies find that EMDR is an effective form of exposure therapy (Seidler & Wagner, 2006).

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. For more information, don’t forget to download our three Positive CBT Exercises for free.


  • Gomez, A. M. (2012). EMDR therapy and adjunct approaches with children: Complex trauma, attachment, and dissociation. Springer Publishing Company.
  • Harford, P. M. (2010). The integrative use of EMDR and clinical hypnosis in the treatment of adults abused as children. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 4(2), 60–75.
  • Parnell, L. (2008). Tapping in: A step-by-step guide to activating your healing resources through bilateral stimulation. Sounds True.
  • Parnell, L. (2013). Attachment-focused EMDR: Healing relational trauma. W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Seidler, G. H., & Wagner, F. E. (2006). Comparing the efficacy of EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of PTSD: A meta-analytic study. Psychological Medicine, 36(11), 1515–1522.
  • Shapiro, F. E. (2002). EMDR as an integrative psychotherapy approach: Experts of diverse orientations explore the paradigm prism. American Psychological Association.
  • Shapiro, F. (2007). Handbook of EMDR and family therapy processes. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Sun, T. F., & Chiu, N. (2006). Synergism between mindfulness meditation training, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in psychotherapy of social phobia. Chang Gung Medical Journal, 29(4), 1–4.
  • Taylor, S., Thordarson, D. S., Maxfield, L., Fedoroff, I. C., Lovell, K., & Ogrodniczuk, J. (2003). Comparative efficacy, speed, and adverse effects of three PTSD treatments: Exposure therapy, EMDR, and relaxation training. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(2), 330–338.
  • van der Kolk, B. A., Spinazzola, J., Blaustein, M. E., Hopper, J. W., Hopper, E. K., Korn, D. L., & Simpson, W. B. (2007). A randomized clinical trial of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), fluoxetine, and pill placebo in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: Treatment effects and long-term maintenance. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68(1), 37–46.
  • van den Hout, M. A., & Engelhard, I. M. (2012). How does EMDR work? Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 3(5), 724–738.


Can I practice EMDR on myself? ›

It is possible to self-administer EMDR on yourself; however, it is not often recommended. If you do decide to try a self-administered EMDR program, it is recommended to only do so for smaller-scale traumas, such as something "minor" that has happened in the present.

How can I practice EMDR at home? ›

“Hug” Method: Bring up the palm of each hand and cross them over the chest onto the forearm of the opposing arm. Close your eyes and be aware of your breathing. Gently tap the left, then right hands. When your mind drifts, bring it back to the tapping.

What are the exercises for EMDR? ›

Any type of bilateral stimulation can be helpful in the processing of traumatic or stressful memories. Self-administered EMDR can include walking, jogging, drum circles, tapping (bilaterally), and even horseback riding.

How do I get the best results from EMDR? ›

A few things I recommend at the onset of the counseling are the following:
  1. Know your support system. ...
  2. Engage in some kind of stress reducing body movement each day. ...
  3. Try to get into the habit of taking ten minutes each day to practice breathing exercises or meditation. ...
  4. Try to start a gratitude journal.
Apr 4, 2019

What is the butterfly hug method? ›

The Butterfly Hug is accomplished by an individual wrap their arms around themselves, so that each hand touches the opposite upper arm or shoulder. They then move their hands like the wings of a butterfly, to tap their arms/shoulders in an alternating rhythm.

Will I cry during EMDR? ›

​13) You'll get emotional.

EMDR Therapy sessions brings all that stuff bubbling to the surface so your brain can process it in a healthy way. After your sessions unfortunately, you may find yourself shedding a few tears. Or maybe feeling super hollow. Or for some people, fuming white-hot angry.

Can you practice EMDR without training? ›

License: EMDR therapy cannot be practiced as a form of therapy by a person who doesn't hold a valid license, certification, or registration to practice as a mental health care professional.

What is not appropriate for EMDR? ›

Because stability must come first, you don't use EMDR to process trauma when a patient is actively abusively using alcohol, drugs, or something to help them feel less. You can't effectively practice EMDR phases 3 – 8 with someone who has yet to experience a safe, trusting relationship.

What should I do in my first EMDR session? ›

In the first phase of EMDR treatment, the therapist takes a thorough history of the client and develops a treatment plan. This phase will include a discussion of the specific problem that has brought him or her into therapy and the behaviors and symptoms stemming from that problem.

What do your eyes do during EMDR? ›

A structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.

Why is EMDR so powerful? ›

When you undergo EMDR, you access memories of a trauma event in very specific ways. Combined with eye movements and guided instructions, accessing those memories helps you reprocess what you remember from the negative event. That reprocessing helps “repair” the mental injury from that memory.

How does EMDR rewire the brain? ›

“EMDR Therapy changes maladaptive neural networks by connecting the traumatic memory with new information. The distressing thoughts and emotions are blended with new positive thoughts and emotions; embodied awareness allows frozen sensations in the body to resolve through healing movements.”

What does trauma release in the body feel like? ›

Some may have a fight-or-flight type of response, which may include muscle tension, heart pounding and sweating because their body "believes it needs to activate," she explains. Others maybe experience a freeze response, which can look like someone who struggles to move or get out of bed.

Why do I feel so bad after EMDR? ›

After EMDR some clients feel a bit vulnerable or teary the next day. This is rare but understandable as you have processed something that has dominated your mental health for a long time. These feelings mostly pass within a day or two, and if they don't, your therapist will have processes to help you get through this.

How do you release past trauma? ›

How to heal trauma in the body
  1. Cognitive processing therapy. Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a common therapy option for healing trauma. ...
  2. Prolonged exposure therapy. ...
  3. EMDR. ...
  4. Somatic Experiencing (SE™) ...
  5. Certain types of talk therapy. ...
  6. A movement practice.

What is the 20 second hug rule? ›

Hugging someone you love for 20 seconds a day is the key to alleviating stress and beating burnout, according to a new book. A lingering embrace releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, which can lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate and improve your mood.

What is the 20 second hug? ›

When people hug for 20 seconds or more, the feel-good hormone oxytocin is released which creates a stronger bond and connection between the huggers. Oxytocin has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce stress.

What does bilateral stimulation do to the brain? ›

Bilateral stimulation is thought to work in EMDR by activating both sides of the brain which allows for the processing of memories, emotions, and incidents that are stuck in the nervous system.

Do you close your eyes during EMDR? ›

With dissociative clients avoid EM's if possible or watch their process with eyes closed to ensure they can sustain dual attention.

Do you talk during EMDR? ›

Do you talk during EMDR? There may be some elements of talking during EMDR therapy sessions, but mostly it will be on the part of your therapist. Your therapist will guide your thoughts by prompting you to think about certain aspects of your past, and whether you want to verbally respond or not is up to you.

Why is EMDR so hard? ›

EMDR sessions can be difficult because they require reactivation of the memory as the first step in processing. EMDR focuses on thoughts, physical sensations, feelings and behaviour. The therapist asks you to remember the event with the corresponding images, thoughts, feelings and physical reactions.

How long does it take to complete EMDR training? ›

EMDR Training offered in a University setting usually takes place over an entire (12 week) semester, while trainings offered in a post graduate training setting may take place over a 2 weekend period, several weeks or may even be specially tailored around a trainees' or agency's work schedule.

What is the difference between EMDR and EMD? ›

EMD differs from EMDR because, with EMD, we are restricting the processing by continuously bringing the client back to target and assessing the SUD (subjective units of disturbance) after each set of bilateral stimulation (BLS). Bilateral stimulation is also referred to as DAS (Dual Attention Stimulus).

Is EMDR suitable for everyone? ›

EMDR can be useful for people who have witnessed or experienced an event like a car accident, a violent crime, sexual or emotional abuse, bullying, a social humiliation or the sudden loss of a loved one, and are struggling to recover. EMDR is suitable for adults, young people and children.

Is EMDR brainwashing? ›

EMDR does not brainwash people into forgetting the trauma, or being happy about the trauma. It allows people to not continue to feel the trauma as if it just happened.

What is looping in EMDR? ›

In EMDR Therapy, there is a common term referred to as "Looping". Looping is when an individual in is the middle of Phase 4 of EMDR therapy, but the processing is blocked. A client is stuck on negative thoughts or beliefs.

Can you heal from trauma without EMDR? ›

Therapy is one way, but not the only way to heal from trauma as there are a variety of ways to heal such as: relationships and connection, re-connecting to our culture and ancestral customs, having a practice such as yoga and/or meditation, expression such as art, dance, and writing, and more.

How does a therapist know if EMDR is working? ›

If EMDR is working, a person should feel relieved after just a couple of sessions. The traumatic memory will start to be desensitized and will at the very least be less emotionally distressing.

How do I know if I'm doing EMDR right? ›

If you're emotions feel overwhelming or if you tend to shut down when you feel an emotion you may not be ready for EMDR treatment. EMDR therapy relies on your body and mind's ability to process through your thoughts and feelings. If you're unable to process in that way, EMDR therapy may not be effective.

What happens in the brain after EMDR? ›

EMDR temporarily slows your over-stimulated amygdala down and synchronises your brain waves helping you process the traumatic memory. This suggests that during EMDR therapy the traumatic memories are continuously “reactivated, replayed and encoded into existing memory networks”.

Can EMDR bring up repressed memories? ›

EMDR does not recover repressed memories.

EMDR only assists the brain in reprocessing unstable processed memories. If the brain has locked away a memory, it has done so for a reason. This therapy will not unlock something that it is not ready for. Only time will do that.

How long does it take to see results from EMDR? ›

Some people have even reported seeing improvement in their symptoms after as little as 3 EMDR sessions. If you've been through years of traditional talk therapy and haven't been seeing the progress you'd expected, this might be a good sign that it's time to give EMDR therapy a try.

Why does tapping in EMDR work? ›

The tapping serves to strengthen and integrate the feeling of the resource so that it becomes more easily available. BLSTs refers to therapies and therapeutic techniques that incorporate the use of alternating bilateral stimulation. Examples of these therapies include EMDR, Resource Tapping, and Brainspotting.

Why doesn't EMDR work for everyone? ›

This lack of therapeutic progress happens for two main reasons: Early stress has shaped a nervous system that is unstable and reactive or. The brain and nervous system have gotten very adept at disconnecting from emotions.

How long do the effects of EMDR last? ›

During therapy or between sessions, clients may experience changes in physical sensations, disturbing dreams, and emotional pain. These side effects may last a few days after treatment. If someone goes through their EMDR sessions within a few months, they can expect side effects to dissipate when their sessions finish.

Can the brain heal itself after emotional trauma? ›

The functions of the amygdala, hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex that are affected by emotional trauma can also be reversed. The brain is ever-changing and recovery is possible.

What part of the brain does EMDR calm? ›

EMDR sessions calm the amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with emotions. This enables both sides of the brain to work together to process trauma and reduce distress. Your brain keeps the memory, but the memory becomes more organized and easier to access.

How to do EMDR tapping? ›

Begin tapping your knees, alternating between left and right. Keep this slow, about 1 tap per second, keeping in mind both your safe place and your positive intention. Stay in this moment, relaxing if you can, for the next 5 minutes.

Where is sadness stored in the body? ›

Emotional information is stored through “packages” in our organs, tissues, skin, and muscles. These “packages” allow the emotional information to stay in our body parts until we can “release” it. Negative emotions in particular have a long-lasting effect on the body.

What trauma is stored in the hips? ›

The hips are an important storage vessel of emotional stress because of the psoas' link to the adrenal glands and the location of the sacral chakra.

What emotions are stored in the buttocks? ›

Buttocks = Anger and Rage

Anger and suppressed rage are often stored in the buttocks.

Does crying help release trauma? ›

It won't rid you of PTSD and your fears, but let your tears flow and you'll maybe feel a little better afterwards. 'Crying for long periods of time releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, otherwise known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain.

How do you flush negative emotions out of your body? ›

Take time to slow down and be alone, get out into nature, make art, listen to music while you cook your favorite dinner, meditate to cleanse your mind and relax your body, take a bubble bath or a nap to restore.

How do you get rid of stored trauma in your body? ›

Here are a few ways to release repressed emotions:
  1. acknowledging your feelings.
  2. working through trauma.
  3. trying shadow work.
  4. making intentional movement.
  5. practicing stillness.
Sep 16, 2021

Can you do EMDR without knowing the trauma? ›

You don't need to have PTSD to benefit from EMDR. There is a growing body of research that shows how much it helps a wide range of concerns. You also don't need to meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis to do EMDR.

Can you do EMDR without trauma? ›

All you need is a vague sense of these memories to begin the EMDR process. That is almost always enough to trigger the somatic responses that facilitate the treatment. It's not rare: There's nothing to fear or feel bad about. Many, if not most, folks do not have a total recall of the traumatic event.

Why does EMDR not work on me? ›

This lack of therapeutic progress happens for two main reasons: Early stress has shaped a nervous system that is unstable and reactive or. The brain and nervous system have gotten very adept at disconnecting from emotions.

Do you have to move your eyes in EMDR? ›

While you imagine a traumatic scene from the event, your therapist will guide you to focus on the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that come up. At the same time, you will be asked to move your eyes back and forth, left to right rapidly, like in REM sleep.

Is EMDR hard at first? ›

EMDR sessions can be difficult because they require reactivation of the memory as the first step in processing. EMDR focuses on thoughts, physical sensations, feelings and behaviour.

Who is not a good candidate for EMDR? ›

There are some people for whom EMDR is not a good choice. Clients with a bipolar disorder or personality disorder diagnosis are not good candidates for EMDR.

Can EMDR get rid of triggers? ›

Through bilateral eye stimulation, EMDR can activate your whole brain and mind in order to process past experiences that created unhealthy responses. Essentially, EMDR can target – your triggers and disarm them.

Who doesn't benefit from EMDR? ›

It has been found to be not as effective in patients who have experience childhood trauma. Dr. Van Der Kolk suggests EMDR doesn't work as well in children because of the mental and biological changes that occur in children who experience chronic child abuse.

Why do I feel weird after EMDR? ›

You might feel a bit 'weird' after a session

This is perfectly normal as your brain continues to make sense of the experience after each processing session.

Why is EMDR so exhausting? ›

The most significant side effect of EMDR therapy is that you will feel tired after about 10-15 minutes of processing. I explain to my clients this is a good thing as your amygdala is now giving up hoarding the old distressing memories and allowing the rest of the brain to process them naturally.


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