Dangers of EMDR Therapy

Traumatic experiences can leave a mark on the psyche of an individual. Trying to tackle that trauma can be challenging. Some therapeutic treatments, like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), are used to help with trauma. However, what are the benefits or dangers of this type of therapy? Take a look at the basics of this therapy, learn about potential side effects, and find out who can benefit from EMDR.

emdr therapy

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is a type of mental health treatment that helps people process and heal from past traumas. Dr. Francine Shapiro first developed the therapy in the 1980s, which is said to have helped millions of people worldwide. EMDR allows the brain to process painful memories.

This type of therapy is done with a trained therapist who will guide the individual through the entire process. During the treatment, the patient will be asked questions about the traumatic experience while they move their eyes back and forth. The eyes are further stimulated with a device that sends out rhythmic vibrations. In some treatment sessions, the therapist may wave their fingers in front of the individual.

Some research has shown that this specific eye movement can help naturally heal the brain from trauma. Sometimes, the individual may feel stuck and unable to process the event. By moving the eyes in a particular way, the brain can become “unstuck,” helping it to process and heal.

Over the years, EMDR has been used to treat:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Trauma

What Are the Side Effects of EMDR Therapy?

In many cases, EMDR has been shown to reduce the trauma of certain events, but there is a chance of experiencing uncomfortable side effects. When patients understand the risks, they can prepare for any of these possible symptoms.

Feeling Tired or Overwhelmed

Many people will feel tired after an EMDR session. Since the brain needs to work harder to process old memories, there could be a chance of feeling fatigued after a treatment session. Often, many of those emotional memories will flood back to the person, which can make them feel more emotional or overwhelmed. Working with a trained therapist can help the person push through these emotions to heal from the trauma.

Changes in Dreams

Many individuals who use this treatment might notice a shift in reoccurring dreams. Usually, patients experience some sleeping issues during the first few treatment sessions. The memories being processed are often very traumatic, and the brain is starting to process those events. The therapist can give tips to help manage any of these side effects.

Remembering Additional Memories

Often, EMDR therapy may bring up new feelings or memories. Keep in mind that these memories are normal. The therapist will help the patient to process these new emotions and memories in a supportive and safe environment. Sometimes, the individual may have to work on these additional memories. Processing old and new memories is part of the healing process.

Feeling Emotionally Sensitive

Talking about disturbing memories can be a tiring process, and it can also cause emotional sensitivity. Patients will need extra rest and care as they work through the treatment.

Physical Discomfort

When someone holds a painful memory, it can be uncomfortable. That discomfort can include physical or emotional sensations. Typically, people can experience physical reactions, such as shaking, sweating, muscle tension, and an increased heart rate. These reactions are tied to past trauma, and they will eventually subside. If something is too physically or emotionally draining, the patient is allowed to take a break or stop the session. A trained therapist can help the person manage any discomfort from these treatment sessions.

Are There Any Dangers of EMDR Therapy?

The therapy technique is safe and effective when a patient works with an EMDR-trained therapist. While some aspects of the therapy may seem dangerous, the therapist will help their patients prepare for the treatment’s emotional and physical side effects.

The therapist will look into the individual’s background to determine whether they are the right fit for this type of therapy. The therapist knows that tackling deep trauma or emotions can lead to side effects. When a client must think about a painful memory, it can cause them to have a heightened level of emotions. A trained EMDR therapist will have a treatment plan in place to help minimize any side effects on the individual.

While there are some side effects of EMDR, many people still believe a few myths surrounding this treatment option.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the therapy is dangerous, especially the eye movements. Some may think that the eye movement will cause someone to relive the event. That is not the case. The client’s eye movement allows the brain to process their trauma, and patients will not relive any trauma during these sessions.

There is another misconception that EMDR will worsen the patient’s memories. That is another myth. Yes, EMDR therapy is very emotionally intense, but it will not make the person worse than before the treatment. These sessions aim to help the person process their trauma and reduce the feelings of negative emotions associated with that event.

EMDR can help anyone with trauma, not just those who have PTSD. Over the years, this therapy has been effective for those experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

Finally, another “danger” that needs to be dispelled is that EMDR will plant false memories. EMDR sessions will not create any untrue memories. In many cases, these sessions allow the person to remember things they may have forgotten, but the therapy will not create false memories for the patient.

It can be challenging for patients to process traumatic events. However, EMDR is a safe and effective way for the brain to heal from those painful memories.

Who Can Benefit from EMDR Therapy?

Many people can benefit from these sessions. Some people want to avoid traditional therapy because it requires the person to talk about the trauma or describe the event in detail. Many people feel uncomfortable “opening up” about these traumatic experiences. EMDR is an excellent option for these individuals. Minimal talking is required, and it is an ideal option for those who might not want to talk about their trauma.

Some patients can feel “stuck” emotionally. With EMDR therapy, the individual can help process their past and make peace with those experiences. The treatment will allow a person to heal as the brain learns to accept these traumatic events. EMDR is ideal for those who still experience unresolved trauma.

EMDR therapy can reduce negative feelings and thoughts, especially those emotions associated with the trauma. As a result, many patients will better understand themselves and be able to release the shame or blame for specific events in their life.

Past trauma can affect an individual’s current life. EMDR will be able to help a person cope with everyday stressors that may be related to past trauma. These sessions can help someone manage their day-to-day emotions. Also, someone experiencing depression or anxiety can find relief with this type of therapy.

Finally, many patients can see quick results with these sessions. Compared to other types of therapy, EMDR can produce fast results. In many cases, the therapy will target the source of the problem. Remember that the session should not be rushed. Many people will see relief from their trauma sooner than later.

How To Get Started With EMDR

Many people want to know how to start with EMDR therapy. A patient can take a few steps to ensure a safe, positive, and effective experience during these sessions. First, the client should find a highly trained therapist with training endorsed by the EMDRIA, the organizing body for EMDR therapy. Any individual needs to be honest and open about their feelings. Talking with the therapist about specific events can help them create a more effective treatment plan.

Anyone interested in EMDR should take the time to learn or develop their coping skills. The therapist will help the individual understand the skills needed for reprocessing memories. Practicing coping skills will take time, but it can help counteract any discomfort from a treatment session.

A patient should never be afraid to ask questions. Knowing what to expect makes the client feel more comfortable with the therapy sessions. Asking questions is the best way to prepare for the treatment.

Some sessions may be in person. With that, the patient needs to prepare appropriately. They need to make sure they feel comfortable and have no distractions in the room. Even if the appointment is virtual, it is still important to prepare for the session. All the focus must be on the therapist and the treatment session.

EMDR can be an effective treatment option for many individuals, especially those with unresolved trauma. That trauma can often lead to issues with substance or alcohol abuse. If you need more information on finding additional help, contact Long Island Interventions.

Long Island Interventions do not directly offer Addiction Treatment. If you or a loved one require services we do not offer, we would gladly refer you to one of our trusted affiliate providers.

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