FAQ on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Photo Credit: Dreamstime.com

Photo Credit: Dreamstime.com

EMDR is a very interesting, highly effective type of therapy. I’ve been working hard lately to spread the word about its usefulness. If you’d like some background on this well-researched therapy that is effective with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, phobias and many other issues check out my recent interview on Growing Up Chaotic and my blog posts here and here.

I promised I’d follow up with any questions I received, so here I go (please note that this is for educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. If you believe you are suffering from a mental health disorder, please talk with your health care practitioner for diagnosis and treatment information).

Question: Is EMDR only for big traumas like combat, assault and serious car accidents?

Hannah’s answer: No! While these examples are experiences that are likely to be traumatic, it does not have to be a “major” trauma to use EMDR. Many of my clients are using EMDR to help reprocess early life experiences that reinforced unhelpful messages and negative beliefs about self. Here are examples of the range of issues I am using EMDR to help clients with: body image, care-taking, anger, loneliness, over-eating, co-dependence, and conflict avoidance.

Question: Do I have to do trauma reprocessing to do EMDR?

Hannah’s answer: No, again! EMDR can also be used to help reinforce and strengthen existing positive beliefs about self. It can also be used to gain emotional regulation skills. It can be used to help prepare for difficult experiences you have coming up in your life. There are many applications for EMDR. You can even do some self-help with EMDR, and I recommend Laurel Parnell’s book, Tapping In.

Question: Can I do EMDR wrong?!

Hannah’s answer: No, as long as you are working with a trained EMDR therapist. Your therapist is there to guide you. There is no right or wrong in EMDR. It’s your therapists job to help whenever there is a stuck point. You can’t do it wrong, although most people worry that they will.

Question: How do I know if I need EMDR?

Hannah’s answer: If you discover a pattern that is hard to break, a response that is out of proportion to the situation, a recurring response associated with trauma, or an inability to cope with strong emotions, then EMDR may be helpful to you. To be honest, probably everyone could benefit from EMDR.

Question: How do I know if I’m ready to reprocess my trauma?

Hannah’s answer: Not everyone is ready for trauma processing. In order to process trauma, you need to feel stable, with a strong support network, a variety of emotional regulation skills, and the ability to tolerate strong emotions without self-harming or using substances. Starting therapy to gain these skills is essential work to prepare for the reprocessing phase of EMDR.

Have more questions or want to start EMDR therapy? Feel free to contact me.



  1. Brittany Sweet

    Can I do the EMDR if I am pregnant?

    • Hannah

      This is a really good question, Brittany. EMDR has 8 stages and you can start the beginning stages that help prepare for trauma reprocessing. These initial steps can take several months, depending on the situation.I personally would be hesitant to do the intense trauma reprocessing with someone who is pregnant. It’s a emotionally draining and actually a lot of physical sensations too. Others may feel differently, but that’s my take on it. Working with a therapist during pregnancy is often a very wise idea for women with trauma, anxiety or depression. So that’s something to keep in mind.

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