How Long Does EMDR Therapy Last?

“How long does EMDR therapy last?” 


This is the most frequently asked question when someone calls to inquire specifically about EMDR.  


Research has shown that EMDR tends to produce results more rapidly than other types of therapy. 


However, the speed of results is not the main benchmark EMDR therapists are focused on.  Our focus is on the long-term healing from emotional distress.


But– This doesn’t answer the most commonly ask EMDR question. 


So, when I get cornered by the question:

“How long does EMDR therapy last?”


My go-to response:  It depends.  

I know, I know, I sound like a lawyer when I say this but it’s true.    


In this article, I’m going to elaborate on the factors that influence the answer to “How long does EMDR therapy last?”  

And- I’ll give you a  research-based average length-of-therapy when using EMDR.


Factor #1 on 'How long does EMDR Therapy Last?'
What are your needs?

  • Do you have a singular traumatic event to process?
  • Do you have several stressful experiences that you struggle with?
  • Do you have persistent and pervasive experiences from childhood that you may not even entirely remember?
  • How quickly do you feel comfortable sharing personal and traumatic information with the EMDR therapist?    

These are but a few of the questions that would need to be answered before being able to give a ballpark figure of how long EMDR will last.  

Factor #2 on 'How long does EMDR Therapy Last?'
How much background information are you sharing?

Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • How comprehensive are you going regarding your background? 
  • Are you sharing a great deal of detail about your life circumstance with your EMDR therapist?
  • Are you leaving out important details?
  • Are you able to articulate the ways in which your emotional distress impacts your level of functioning?   
  • How would you describe your level of functioning?
  • Has your level of functioning changed over time?

Your EMDR therapy will be enhanced if the therapist gets a clear understanding of the foundational problems/concerns/trauma. 

When you are share background information, you are laying the foundation for your EMDR therapy.  

Therefore- be prepared!!!!!    It will take several sessions talking with your EMDR therapist to gain a firm foundation of what your concerns that you wish to address.


You may want to start ASAP with the eye movement stage, but it will take some time to gather  information.  


It is important to go slowly before moving on to the actual eye movement stage.

Factor #3 on 'How long does EMDR Therapy Last?'
Are you emotionally ready?

how long does emdr therapy last

If we were to move right into the eye movement stage, it could be re-traumatizing for you. 


Rather than the EMDR therapist helping you to heal, rushing into the process can set you back.  

You need to have resources and tools you can draw on if your distress rises.  

This means that the EMDR therapist will ensure that you have the tools to increase your ability to handle distressing feelings in advance of the eye movement stage.

Additionally, people that have been through trauma can- sometimes- dissociate. 


EMDR isn’t an effective treatment if you are not able to be present in the here-and-now.  


It is important for you  to be aware of the traumatic event- but if it overwhelms your ability to be aware of the present moment- it can be re-traumatizing.


Your EMDR therapist won’t begin the eye movement portion until all three factors are in place: 

  1. You feel able to talk about a difficult experience
  2. You are able to feel the emotions and sensations connected to the experience
  3. You are able to stay grounded and observant to the process

Factor #4 on 'How long does EMDR Therapy Last?'
Ultimately, you know best

How long will it take me to process my trauma…


is kinda like asking…


How many days will it take my hair to grow exactly six inches?


Processing trauma takes time.


Our logical brain would love to create some nifty spreadsheet to answer the question.

Unfortunately, our bodies keep the score… and our bodies don’t operate in minutes/hours/days… or logic and spreadsheets.


Your body will be your own best guide for this question! 

You’ll be the one to tell the EMDR therapist about:  

  • Your level of overwhelm or anxiety  about the event.
  • If you feel like your heart is racing as you remember an event
  • If you feel more able to incorporate   thoughts/ideas/stories about the event into your memories. 

What does the research indicate about how long EMDR treatment will last?

On average, it takes weekly visits to an EMDR therapist for about six months.


This means that some people go through the EMDR process very quickly and some take quite some time to work through their trauma.  


You might be discouraged at the thought of committing to weekly treatment for that length of time! 


I get it!  


But remember:  Investing in your mental health today will reap benefits that last a lifetime.

Are you ready to give therapy a go?  

I'm here to help!

Free free to contact me directly if you have questions or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.


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