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Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a widely used treatment method in psychology. EMDR is primarily used for symptoms resulting from trauma or PTSD. What exactly is EMDR and how does this therapy work? You can read more about it in this article.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a form of therapy used for processing trauma. The acronym stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. In EMDR treatment, the psychologist helps you reduce the emotional charge associated with a distressing memory. You won’t forget what happened, the emotions you feel about it become less strong. This can help when you have (long-term) symptoms as a result of a trauma.


When is EMDR right for you?

Amongst other things, EMDR is used when you’ve experienced trauma: in other words, a shocking event or disturbing series of events. Trauma can cause quite a few symptoms. For example, you may experience:


  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidant behaviors


If you are unable to process your trauma properly yourself, it may help to talk to a psychologist. To treat trauma, cognitive behavioral therapy is used as one of the options in addition to EMDR.



EMDR is also used as a treatment if you’re suffering from PTSD. People with PTSD experience long-term symptoms of trauma, or they don’t experience any symptoms until weeks, months, or even years after the event. Read here more about treating PTSD

EMDR is also used in the treatment of PTSD. With PTSD the symptoms you have from the trauma are long-term or they don’t occur until weeks, months or years after the trauma.


How does EMDR treatment look like?

During EMDR treatment, the psychologist asks you a series of questions. You think back to the distressing event that caused a trauma. The therapist gathers information about the event. Then the processing part will begin.
The psychologist asks you to think about the event again. Meanwhile, the psychologist now uses a distracting stimulus. For example, these are the psychologist’s fingers. The psychologist moves the fingers up and down in front of your eyes. You follow this movement with your eyes while thinking about the memory. The distracting stimulus can also be a sound or taps to the knees


What are the effects of EMDR?

As your working memory struggles to process everything that’s happening, your memory of the traumatic event starts to fade. It won’t completely go away, but the emotional charge associated with the memory will diminish. 

As a result, you’ll find it much easier to think back to particular scenarios without feeling any fear or anxiety. You won’t feel overwhelmed with emotions when someone or something reminds you of the traumatic event. You’ll experience fewer flashbacks and your avoidant behaviors will decrease as a result.


What are the side effects of EMDR?

EMDR is an intensive treatment that requires a lot of work from your brain. This may cause you to experience certain side effects after an EMDR session, including:


  • Fatigue;
  • Headaches;
  • A new range of images and emotions racing through your mind.


Usually, these symptoms won’t last longer than three days.


Learn more about EMDR treatment

Do you have questions about EMDR treatment? Recovery from trauma or PTSD is possible. In many cases, EMDR offers improvement. A psychologist can advise you whether EMDR is appropriate in your situation, or whether maybe other techniques are more appropriate, such as Imaginal Rescripting or Exposure therapy. This way you get the professional help and treatment that suits your needs.



EMDR is the most common treatment method for trauma-related symptoms.

What is the goal of EMDR?

In EMDR treatment, the psychologist helps you reduce the emotional charge associated with a distressing memory. You do not forget what happened, but the emotions you feel about it become less strong. This can help when you have (long-term) symptoms as a result of a trauma.

How long does EMDR last?

EMDR treatment consists of several EMDR sessions. An EMDR session takes about 1 hour. Every trauma is different and everyone has their own processing mechanism. This makes it difficult to predict how many sessions are needed. On average, two to six sessions are needed for single trauma.

How quickly does EMDR work?

This varies. Everyone has their own processing system. Sometimes improvement can occur within 1 session, sometimes it takes several sessions.

What does EMDR do to your brain?

Working Memory Theory is the theory of the mechanism of action of EMDR that currently has the most empirical support. The distracting stimulus (eye movements) create a load on your working memory, at the same time you are asked to think about the traumatic memory which also demands a lot from your working memory. The competition of these two tasks leaves little room for the emotions associated with the traumatic memory and allows you to give it a different meaning.

When do you not use EMDR?

EMDR is a proven effective treatment method for PTSD. In other symptoms EMDR is sometimes also used, but the effectiveness has not (yet) been proven. Together with your therapist you look at which treatment method suits your symptoms and the goals you have set.

What if EMDR doesn't work?

EMDR is one of the proven effective methods for PTSD. If EMDR does not work, it can be switched to such methods as Imaginary Exposure (IE), a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

How many EMDR treatments do I need?

You determine this with your psychologist and it depends on the type of trauma (single or complex trauma) and the progress of treatments. In general for single trauma, it is 2 to 6 sessions.

What does EMDR cost?

The cost of EMDR treatment depends on the length of treatment. In addition, it depends on your insurance how much deductible you have to pay, and whether the treatment is fully reimbursed.

How long does an EMDR session take?

In general an EMDR session lasts 45 minutes or 90 minutes.

What do you feel after EMDR?

After an EMDR session, the effects may continue for a while. In some cases, it may cause some symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches or new images emerging. Usually the symptoms do not last longer than three days.

publish-icon Published - 14 Jun 2021
Nine has extensive experience with science-based methods, such as EMDR. Without a lot of talking, it is possible to process trauma. Nine can help you with trauma-related issues and anxiety and sadness symptoms.
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