Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
July 16, 2021

What to Expect After EMDR

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is an evidence-based therapy for trauma, depression, substance abuse and other forms of psychological distress. If a therapist suggests trying EMDR, you might want to know more about what it entails and the outcomes you can expect from this treatment. 

What Is EMDR?

Psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro pioneered EMDR in 1987. The underlying idea behind this therapeutic approach is that eye movements can reduce negative emotions. During an EMDR session, your therapist will ask you to recall traumatic or triggering experiences while they instruct you to make specific eye movements. In some cases, sounds and other stimuli such as hand tapping can accompany EMDR treatment.

Rapidly moving your eyes from side to side mimics what happens during the REM sleep cycle, which is when your brain is actively processing various recent experiences you’ve had. Following the same eye movement pattern that characterizes REM sleep allows you to process similarly high levels of information while you’re awake. 

After each set of movements, your therapist will stop and ask you what came to mind during that session. You may find your thoughts or feelings have shifted, which indicates the reprocessing is working. Over several treatment sessions, EMDR can desensitize your psychological response to discouraging thoughts or unpleasant memories. 

What to Know Before Getting EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy has proven to be effective, and has fewer risks and side effects than prescription antidepressants and anxiety medications. However, you should know that EMDR heightens many people’s awareness and perception, causing highly vivid, realistic dreams. Some people undergoing EMDR also report feeling on edge after treatment. If this happens to you, talk to your therapist. They can suggest relaxation techniques and self-care strategies to release tension and put you at ease.

The first few therapy sessions may be more challenging as your therapist asks you to confront complex emotions such as fear, guilt, anger or sadness. However, successfully completing a course of EMDR therapy can help you work through negativity and emerge happier and healthier on the other side. 

What Happens During EMDR?

EMDR therapy doesn’t take place over a set number of sessions. Instead, the process ends when you feel empowered to reclaim your life from the adversity that has been weighing you down. Each EMDR session will last, on average, between 60 and 90 minutes.

If you don’t already know your therapist, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions to ensure you understand the process and feel comfortable in the treatment environment. Then, the therapist will interview you about your past to understand how these experiences have contributed to the emotional distress you’re living with today. It’s essential to be honest about any long-held negativity that you believe is holding you back.

After concluding the EMDR therapeutic process, you should have a more optimistic outlook on life, with less stress and anxiety burdening you. 

Overcoming Challenges Through Treatment

At Beach House, we believe it is possible to find lasting freedom from substance abuse and co-occurring disorders such as trauma with our clinically excellent treatment modalities. We offer an industry-leading client-to-therapist ratio and a compassionate culture that prioritizes love and respect. We are also proud to have earned a spot on Newsweek magazine’s list of the top addiction treatment facilities in America. Explore our beautiful, resort-like campus and learn more about our multiple accreditations, then contact us anytime to receive confidential help from our admissions counselors.