What are the craziest myths (and facts) of EMDR?


I often wonder why why is EMDR so controversial and there are so many myths about EMDR floating around.

Perhaps it’s because EMDR seems so simple that people question how it can be effective.


Perhaps it appears unconventional so people question its ability to help them.


Perhaps it seems too good to be true?  


Whatever the reasons for the myths and misconceptions about EMDR, there are many that are out there.    

So I thought it was important to set the record straight and share some common myths and facts of EMDR.

1. EMDR is a form of hypnosis

A list of similarities between EMDR and hypnosis would be short in length.  Namely, both use eye movements.  


Beyond that, hypnosis and EMDR are quite different.


In EMDR, it is important that you ‘have a foot’ in the present while also focusing on positive and negative beliefs/thoughts that were developed in the past. 


You are awake and alert and know exactly what you are saying, doing, and thinking.  

2. The use of EMDR is only effective for those suffering with PTSD

Perhaps you have a friend that has suffered from severe PTSD symptoms.  


They share with you that EMDR really helped them.  


Your ears perk up and you ask for more information about it to see if it might be an appropriate treatment for your anxiety.


You may be disappointed when you find that it is a go-to approach for PTSD… which isn’t your concern…

Here's the real deal:

While the original research was carried out on individuals that had PTSD, EMDR is a suitable treatment for many other mental health concerns- including depression, anxiety, panic, and dissociation.  


This means- if you are struggling with past trauma, anxiety, depression, and panic- EMDR may be an excellent treatment for you to consider!  

Myths (and facts) of EMDR:
3. You will dive right in to the processing of your trauma.


As I have stated in previous blog posts about EMDR, there are many stages to EMDR.

The first few stages are focused on preparing the client for reprocessing.  

Understanding your history, your problematic beliefs, and where you get stuck in your thinking is critical in order to effectively and appropriately provide EMDR therapy.

Your therapist will take time to assess your coping strategies and design more skills and strategies based on the information you share. 

This is a critical step prior to any reprocessing of your presenting concern.  

4. You will have to discuss your trauma in detail.

We used to think that talk therapy that entailed reliving the trauma was essential to healing. 

Much research has been done to test this hypothesis. 

The results are mixed and it gives therapists pause to act on the hypothesis.  

For some people there are benefits- It can decrease intrusive thoughts and opens up new possibilities.  

For others, it can be very retraumatizing and provide no benefit.  

The great thing bout EMDR is that you aren’t required to share all the nitty-gritty details.  

Quite the opposite!  Therapists only need a few details.  



With EMDR, you are in the driver’s seat.  You get to share what you wish to share about the difficult incident.


Myths (and facts) of EMDR:
5. It plants false memories

EMDR is not about questioning your memories and creating new ones.  

It’s about taking the memories that you already have and focusing on the traumatic memory for mere seconds (typically about 15-30 seconds) while doing eye movements.


It’s all about reprocessing the memories. 


The meaning of the painful events is transformed on an emotional level.

Reprocessing creates a reduction in the emotional attention and vividness associated with the trauma.

Let me emphasize: 

EMDR does not have the ability to create a memory that was not already there – it only works with reprocessing memories that already are present within the person.

In debunking myths of EMDR, hopefully, the benefits of EMDR are obvious!

If not, here are 5 benefits of EMDR:


1.  It is useful for a wide variety of mental health issues.  If you are thinking about EMDR, please know that it is an evidence-based modality for lots of mental health issues… and is particularly effective for trauma in childhood.  For example, one study found that 77% of clients with PTSD found significant improvement after undergoing EMDR therapy.  


2. It reduces negative thoughts.  Do you overthink of your mind as a hamster wheel of thoughts that keep you stuck?   EMDR can be used to slow down these thoughts, decrease their emotional sting, and help to replace them with more useful and realistic thoughts.  


3. The relief of your symptoms tends to be faster than other therapeutic modalities.  Yes, you read this correctly!  On average, EMDR produces faster results regarding reprocessing difficult thoughts and emotions than other modalities.  


This may beg the question:  How long will it take to obtain symptom relief?  Unfortunately, this question can’t be answered with a simple answer.  Go read my blog post that will more thoroughly answer the question.  


4. Minimal talking is required!  EMDR is not like traditional talk therapy. You don’t have to go into great detail about your concern.  That stated, EMDR is VERY compatible with other therapeutic modalities and is often used in conjunction with others.  


When you are looking for a therapist, ask questions such as:

  • Will we solely engage in EMDR?
  • Do you integrate other treatment modalities into your EMDR practice?  
  • How will you fold other modalities into the treatment of EMDR

5. EMDR is supported by research!  There are far too many academic publications that point to its effectiveness to cite them all.  

Here are a few that demonstrate EMDR’s effectiveness:

It is important to note that EMDR is a proven treatment modality.  


However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t state the following:  

EMDR is not a cure-all.  

It is not the ‘magic pill’ that will cure whatever ails you. 


However, it has been shown to be a very highly effective tool to deal with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.  


 Hopefully, if you are feel more at ease about EMDR and you’re ready to give therapy a go!

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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