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Have you experienced a difficult event or developed post-traumatic stress? Then Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) may be an alternative to treatment. Here we explain what EMDR is and how it can help.

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment method aimed specifically at treating people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it can also be helpful for other psychological problems and disorders such as depression, anxiety and loss.

According to the HSE, this trauma focused therapy EMDR can be used to treat PTSD, but it is good to know that trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is primarily recommended.

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What is the basis of EMDR?

The treatment is based on a theory of how memory works and how it is affected by difficult events. It combines elements of other schools of therapy such as psychodynamic theory, behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and systems theory. Another specific feature of EMDR is the use of so-called bilateral stimulation, which is done via eye movements. The idea is that memories can then be processed so that you are less affected by difficult events.


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How does the treatment work?

Treatment with EMDR is adapted to the individual and always starts with an assessment of the problem. The length of a treatment depends on the client’s needs; it can be anything from a few sessions to a treatment lasting a few months. In the case of a single trauma, treatment can be quick, but in the case of more complex problems, the therapy will be longer. A typical EMDR session may include the following steps:

  1. Background and planning: The therapist gets an idea of the client’s trauma history and helps identify specific memories or events to be processed.
  2. Preparation for processing: The therapist and client work together to develop coping strategies and resources to deal with emotions and memories that may arise during treatment.
  3. Processing memories: The client focuses on a specific traumatic memory while following the therapist’s movement cues, usually eye movements. The client is then encouraged to observe their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations while going through the memory.
  4. Meaning and connection: The therapist helps the client to explore and understand the changes and associations that occur during the processing of the memory. Processing aims to create an understanding and integration of the traumatic memory.
  5. Closure: The session ends with the client relaxing and discussing their experiences during the session.

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Emdr therapy online

Although you might think that working with EMDR online is not possible because it involves eye movement, there is research to show that it is possible.


12 common questions and answers about EMDR

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment method that focuses on treating people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it can also be helpful for other psychological problems.

What is the basis of EMDR?

It is based on a theory of how memory works and how it is affected by difficult events. It combines elements of other schools of therapy such as psychodynamic theory, behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and systems theory.

How does EMDR treatment work?

An EMDR treatment always begins with an assessment and preparation for the processing phase. During processing, a specific method of eye movement is used, followed by integration and relaxation.

What is specific about EMDR?

The specificity of EMDR is the use of so-called bilateral stimulation, which is done via eye movements.

How long is an EMDR treatment?

It is adapted to the client’s needs and can last from a few sessions to a few months. In the case of isolated traumas, the treatment can be quick, but in the case of more complex problems, it will be longer.

Who can benefit from EMDR?

People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can benefit from EMDR, but it can also help with depression, anxiety and loss.

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder and is a condition that can develop after experiencing trauma.

What are the most common symptoms of PTSD?

The most common symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance behavior, increased vigilance, and negative changes in emotions and thoughts. These symptoms can be long-lasting and affect everyday life.

What research support is there for the method?

Based on the National Board of Health and Welfare’s guidelines, EMDR can be used to treat PTSD, but it is good to know that trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is primarily recommended. However, there is a lot of research that has shown that EMDR gives good results.

Can children be treated with EMDR?

At present, there is not enough research on EMDR for children for it to be recommended by the National Board of Health and Welfare, but there is experience that the method can have a good effect.

What are the benefits of EMDR?

The advantages of the method are that it is relatively gentle on the client, it requires no exposure and homework that you usually get in trauma-focused CBT. It can also be effective, and although it can also be intense and emotionally upsetting, there are many safety checks during the treatment itself.

Where can I go if I want to undergo EMDR?

If you or someone you know has experienced trauma and is suffering from symptoms of PTSD, it is important to seek professional help. You can book an appointment with a psychologist or therapist via our website. We make the hard things easier.



Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.