Coping With EMDR Therapy | A Guide To Faster Healing

A man coping with EMDR side effects - Connect Clinical Services

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a widely acclaimed approach for treating trauma, anxiety, and various other psychological disorders. Its effectiveness in helping individuals process and overcome distressing memories is well-documented. However, like any therapeutic intervention, EMDR can have side effects that must be managed effectively. In this guide, we'll explore these side effects and offer strategies to cope with them, ensuring a smoother and more healing EMDR journey. Be prepared to learn on coping with EMDR so you can supercharge your way into healing completely on your own.

Understanding EMDR Therapy 

Before diving into side effects and coping mechanisms, it's crucial to understand what EMDR therapy entails. EMDR is based on the idea that trauma and distressing memories can get "stuck" in the brain's processing system, leading to emotional and psychological difficulties. The therapy involves reprocessing these memories by focusing on them while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, often through eye movements, tapping, or auditory cues. 

Common Side Effects of EMDR Therapy 

  1. Increased Distress: It's not uncommon to experience an initial increase in distress as you delve into traumatic memories during EMDR sessions. This heightened emotional response can continue between sessions.
  2. Vivid Dreams and Flashbacks: Some individuals report having more vivid dreams or experiencing flashbacks of traumatic events after starting EMDR therapy.
  3. Physical Sensations: You might notice physical sensations such as tension, headaches, or fatigue as your body processes emotional trauma.
  4. Mood Fluctuations: EMDR can temporarily affect your mood, leading to feelings of sadness, irritability, or anxiety.

Coping Strategies for EMDR Side Effects 

  1. Communication with Your Therapist: The most critical step is open communication with your EMDR therapist. They are trained to guide you through the process and can help you understand and manage side effects.
  2. Grounding Techniques: When emotions become overwhelming, grounding techniques can be invaluable. These include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  3. Self-Care: Prioritize self-care during your EMDR therapy journey. Ensure you're eating well, getting enough rest, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  4. Journaling: Keeping a journal can be therapeutic. Write about your experiences, thoughts, and emotions before and after EMDR sessions. This can help you track progress and identify patterns.
  5. Stay Connected: Lean on your support network. Friends and family can provide emotional support and understanding as you navigate the process.
  6. Mindful Distraction: Engage in activities that require focus, such as art, reading, or hobbies, to temporarily distract from distressing thoughts.
  7. Exercise: Physical activity can help release pent-up stress and tension. Regular exercise can boost your mood and overall well-being.
  8. Relaxation Techniques: Explore relaxation techniques like guided imagery, yoga, or tai chi to alleviate physical tension and promote emotional well-being.
  9. Positive Affirmations: Incorporate positive affirmations into your daily routine to counter negative thought patterns. Remind yourself of your strengths and resilience.
  10. Patience and Self-Compassion: Remember that healing takes time. Be patient with yourself and practice self­compassion. Acknowledge the courage it takes to confront and process traumatic memories.
  11. Consult Your Therapist: If side effects persist or intensify, consult your EMDR therapist. Adjustments to the therapy plan or additional support may be needed.

EMDR therapy can be a powerful tool for healing trauma and distressing memories. Still, it's essential to be prepared for potential side effects along the way. Although the therapeutic work can be difficult, things do get better. Consistently, PTSD, anxiety, and depression symptoms reduce, and clients report that their lives are better having done the work in therapy.