What Is EMDR, and What Does It Treat?

Your mind can store memories and experiences like data and translate this data into information that governs your operating systems. Our aversion to risk, fears, and passions are all decisions linked to how our minds store and process information.

When we experience traumatic events, our mind doesn’t process these experiences as regular memories. Traumatic events can be so devastating that they may manifest into symptoms that can stunt our personal growth. Physiological effects such as anxiety, depression, and trouble concentrating can all be attributed to PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Fortunately, therapy exists that treats people who experience PTSD or other stress-related symptoms. One such therapy is EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy.

EMDR and many other therapies are available on sites like BetterHelp. BetterHelp links people with thousands of licensed professional therapists to get you the help you need. For more information about EMDR, visit the link below: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/emdr-therapists-understand-trauma/

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a type of therapy that focuses on relieving symptoms deriving from traumatic events using bilateral stimulation and memory reprocessing. EMDR is not hypnosis. Patients are not subjected to an altered state of suggestibility or forced to relive their trauma.

EMDR is a way to gain awareness of these unprocessed memories and reprocess them so that they stop taking over our present.

EMDR believes that people who’ve experienced traumatic events live with unprocessed memories. Unprocessed memories are memories we haven’t digested or analyzed because they’re too painful to confront. EMDR helps by treating PTSD symptoms and allowing patients to explore these traumatic memories so their minds can process them and get over their trauma.

What does EMDR treat?

EMDR treats symptoms of PTSD or other stress-related disorders. EMDR can help with depression, social anxiety, panic disorders, and stress-eating disorders. Any patient who feels they have experienced a traumatic event and show these symptoms can benefit from EMDR.

Traumatic events can be events of extreme stress, such as near-death experiences or losing a loved one. They can also include divorce, family separation, or racially-based threats.

What Are Some Benefits of EMDR?

One significant benefit to EMDR, as opposed to other therapy types, is the length of treatment. Many patients have said they stopped feeling severe symptoms in as little as three sessions. Typically, EMDR sessions can last up to 90 minutes, and sessions usually run for 6-12 meetings.

Here are some more of the benefits of EMDR.

  • Reduced stress and Anxiety
  • Safer alternative to prescription drugs
  • Fewer, milder panic attacks
  • Increased Focus
  • Self-awareness
  • Higher Self-Esteem
  • Greater Control of Your Life

How does EMDR work?

EMDR consists of desensitization and reprocessing. Both processes work in tandem to dampen symptoms and reprocess memories.


Therapists make sure patients feel safe with breathing exercises and altering ambiance to provide a calming experience. Patients not obligated to talk about their trauma unless they’re ready. The therapist lets patients speak freely until they feel comfortable enough to explore their traumatic events.

Once they feel safe, patients begin to recount their memories at their own pace. If they start to feel anxious and stressed out, therapists will perform what’s called bilateral stimulation.

Bilateral stimulation is the practice of using external stimuli in rhythmic patterns to dampen symptoms. The stimulation usually involves the patient following the therapists’ hand move from left to right. This process activates both hemispheres of the brain by focusing on an easy task that focuses on the present. This treatment has shown to reduce symptoms in patients after just a few sessions.


Once a patient’s symptoms are manageable, therapists ask more profound questions about the event. This guided conversation gives both patient and therapist enough agency to unravel the past and look at events more objectively.

During this stage, and every step of EMDR, therapists give patients total control. Patients choose how much or little they want to share. This control provides patients the chance to confront their memories without the added pressure of stress or anxiety.

With their therapist’s help, patients can change their memories’ narratives. This process is the reprocessing process.

By helping patients confront their memories and letting them understand and restructure the event, EMDR gives patients the tools to take control of their present and future.

How Long Does EMDR Therapy Last?

EMDR doesn’t have the same time commitment requirements as other traditional talk therapies. Typica talk therapies can last upwards of a year to experience substantial improvement.

A session can last between 60-90 minutes. Most patients have seen improvement in their symptoms in as little as 3 sessions, but therapists recommend 6-12 sessions to reprocess traumatic memories.

Final Thoughts

EMDR can help patients make sense of their traumatic experiences. Studies have shown that EMDR helps patients experiencing social anxiety and depression.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of PTSD or other stress-related disorders, reach out to a licensed therapist for more information.

Written by Marie Miguel

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


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