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Can You Do Emdr On Yourself?

EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic technique that has gained popularity for its effectiveness in treating trauma and emotional distress. But can you do EMDR on yourself? This question often arises among individuals seeking healing and self-help.

Dr. Cooney Blades
Dec 06, 20234719 Shares117973 Views
For PTSD, anxiety, and many other mental healthconditions, EMDR is a safe and efficient treatment. Self-administering EMDR is feasible. However, it's not always advised. It is advised that you limit your use of self-administered EMDR programs to smaller-scale traumas, such as "minor" events that have occurred recently.
A growing body of research indicates that self-administered psychological therapies like those available through mobile and webapplications are effective for a wide range of mental diseases and improve treatment accessibility.
The public is already heavily exposed to online and mobile applications that provide self-help resources for eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, an internationally recognized treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The question "Can you do EMDR on yourself?" is one that most people ask, and we have discussed this process in detail here in this article.

Does Self Administered Emdr Work?

Woman Covering Her Face with Her Hand
Woman Covering Her Face with Her Hand
With the use of online EMDR programs, self-administered EMDR treatment is a secure and prosperous approach to treating trauma, anxiety, sadness, grief, PTSD, and addictions; nevertheless, it should only be used in conjunction with therapy and under a therapist's supervision.
With the use of Virtual EMDR, people may get EMDR therapy online and at home without the assistance of a therapist, potentially making the treatment more accessible to those who need it.
For those who have already had EMDR treatment or as an adjunct to standard therapy, self-guided EMDR therapy might be helpful.
Based on their comprehensive data analysis and tracking of client sessions, Virtual EMDR asserts its effectiveness, implying that self-administered EMDR therapy can be beneficial.
For those with more traumatic pasts, receiving supervision from a therapist during EMDR may be more crucial. However, self-administered EMDR can still be a beneficial addition to their treatment plan.
Given that an entire course of therapy with a therapist may cost up to $2000, one of the main benefits of self-guided EMDR therapy is its affordability.

Doing EMDR On Yourself

People who have gone through a terrible incident may find great relief from it using EMDR treatment, a kind of trauma-focused therapy. On the other hand, one should not do EMDR treatment on oneself.
This is because EMDR has the potential to be highly emotional, and patients require the assistance of a qualified expert to process their memories safely. It can also be challenging to maintain the degree of attention and concentration needed for EMDR when working on oneself.
Self-EMDR therapy attempts can be harmful and unproductive. It is simple to let the feelings connected to the traumatic memories overpower you in the absence of professional therapy advice. More anguish and even retraumatization may result from this.
Self-EMDR can also cause dissociation, a condition in which a patient experiences a loss of connection to their own body and reality. This has the potential to be quite hazardous as it can result in suicide or self-harm. Therefore, it's crucial to speak with a trained specialist in advance if you're thinking about EMDR treatment.

What Are The Risks Of Doing EMDR On Yourself?

The patient will be guided through the EMDR procedure by a qualified therapist in most cases. Nonetheless, some people might attempt self-EMDR without expert supervision. While conducting EMDR without professional assistance may seem like a beautiful way to save money, there are a number of hazards involved. Among these dangers are.
Since EMDR is a complicated procedure, it is simple to make mistakes that could exacerbate symptoms if you don't have expert help. Emotionally charged, EMDR may be overwhelming and cause further suffering if not supported.
Individuals without EMDR training may be unable to recognize when therapy is no longer effective and may even choose to continue with EMDR after it has reached its end. The treatment method for EMDR therapy consists of several phases, and it is crucial to have a qualified expert leading you through each one.
The efficacy of this therapy is dependent on completing these processes. EMDR is a potentially beneficial treatment for mental healthissues, but it should always be carried out under the supervision of a qualified expert.
Woman Covering Her Face
Woman Covering Her Face

How Can You Do EMDR On Yourself?

The eight-phase EMDR therapy methodology is used. The client's history, preparation, assessment, desensitization, body scan, closure, and reevaluation of the therapy are all included in the treatment paradigm.
The therapist will make sure to address the EMDR safety precautions throughout the client preparation phase by creating pictures or memories that the client may go back to in case the trauma treatment becomes too much for them.

Phase One

Gathering a client's medical history and formulating a treatment plan constitute the first stage. In order to start EMDR therapy, the clinician looks for an appropriate target as well as any background information that could be contributing to the continuation of the maladaptive behavior.
Whether the memory dates back to early infancy or is related to a recent event, the clinician will want to determine which is the most upsetting and address it first. Subsequent stressors will be handled once the proper target has been processed, as EMDR operates on a sequential basis.

Phase Two

The second stage focuses on getting the client ready. The therapeutic bond between the therapist and the client is essential since EMDR is a kind of trauma treatment. At this stage, the therapist will build rapport and include the patient in the therapeutic process. In this stage, the therapist gives the client an explanation of the EMDR procedure and teaches them how to wrap up an unfinished session.

Phase Three

The therapist and the client collaborate to determine which memory will be the first to be targeted during the third phase, which is called the evaluation phase. This is frequently the most upsetting recollection, but after talking about the trauma, they could discover that the natural source of the pain is a memory from an earlier childhood; in that case, that memory would be addressed instead.
The most upsetting recollection of the traumatic incident, as well as any negative thoughts connected to it, will be identified by the client. Goals related to positive beliefs could also be incorporated into this stage. The validity of cognitions which determines how accurate the client's negative views actually are, will be discussed between the therapist and the client.
When working with youngsters, the VOC is frequently omitted since they could find this abstract idea challenging to understand. Additionally, they will determine the subjective units of disturbance (SUD), a subjective indicator of how upsetting the recollection is.
Later on in the procedure, the SUD will be measured once more, allowing the therapist to assess the client's progress in therapy. This phase covers safety practices that the client can mentally draw upon in the fourth phase.

Phase Four

The client is advised to combine the upsetting memory with bilateral stimulation guided by the therapist during the fourth phase, which is known as the desensitization phase. In order to eliminate the emotional component of the traumatic incident and enable the client to recall the facts without being overtaken by their emotions, the traumatic event will be transformed from a sensory experience to a purely factual experience.
This phase also addresses empowerment, self-efficacy, and a sense of control. While challenging the client's beliefs, the therapist must ensure that the client remains within their locus of control.
At this point, the safety procedures could be activated. The client might “bring in” a spirit animal, wise person, or other avatar to assist in calming them down and guide them through their memories in a safe manner if they begin to feel anxious about them.

Phase Five

The installation phase, which takes place in the fifth stage, involves addressing the VOC once again in order to replace negative self-beliefs with more positive ones.

Phase Six

The client is asked to recollect the first upsetting vision and determine whether any sensory memories are still connected to it during the sixth step, known as the body scan.
The target image has not yet been wholly processed if there are still somatic memories or body feelings connected to the memory that are present. The therapist and the client will decide if the memory just needs further processing or whether there is a more prominent target memory that should be addressed first.

Phase Seven

The closing phase is the eighth. During this stage, self-control exercises from a previous session are reviewed and applied again. The goal is to bring the client back to homeostasis after they have experienced disturbance.
During this stage, self-soothing and calming skills are revisited in case the client has any unprocessed feelings or to assist in the event that new stresses arise. In order to address any disruptions, nightmares, uncomfortable bodily sensations, ideas, or sentiments in a later session, the client is requested to keep a journal.

Phase Eight

The eighth and last stage is called the re-evaluation phase, during which the therapist and client discuss which elements of the treatment are most beneficial and pinpoint any additional areas that could require attention.

The Importance Of Dual Focus In Self Administered EMDR

When you're doing self-administered EMDR, it's important to remember a fundamental principle; keeping your attention on two things at once. It would help if you focused on both the back-and-forth stimulation and how you're feeling inside. This dual focus is crucial for EMDR to work. You can't just think about one without the other.
For example, only paying attention to the stimulation won't help with trauma. And if you just think about a distressing memory without trying to make it better, it could make things worse. So, it would be best if you kept both in mind to process and get rid of the trauma effectively.
This dual focus is like a distraction for your mind. It helps your brain let go of the trauma. The strong negative feelings connected to the memory get weaker and go away. The memory starts to feel like something that happened a long time ago.
It's also important to note that just watching an EMDR video won't help unless you're feeling anxiety or like you're in a fight-or-flight mode during the treatment. You need to activate that disturbing memory on a physical level while you're working with the stimulation.
To make self-administered EMDR work, remember to focus on both the back-and-forth stimulation and your inner feelings. This double focus helps your brain process and let go of the trauma. And don't forget to activate a disturbing memory on a physical level during the treatment to make it effective.
Girl in Multi Colored Long Sleeve Shirt Covering Her Face
Girl in Multi Colored Long Sleeve Shirt Covering Her Face

What Are The Benefits Of Doing EMDR On Yourself?

Doing EMDR on yourself can offer numerous advantages. These benefits encompass various aspects of your mental and emotional well-being. Firstly, self-administered EMDR can help alleviate distress and anxiety linked to traumatic experiences. It enables you to address and work through these troubling emotions independently.
Moreover, practicing EMDR on your own can enhance your ability to concentrate and maintain focus. This can be particularly beneficial when dealing with traumatic memories or distressing thoughts, as it allows you to process them more effectively.
Furthermore, self-guided EMDR can contribute to an increased sense of self-efficacy. You gain a better understanding of how your mind functions and develop strategies for managing challenging emotions.
One of the key advantages is the freedom it provides. You can tailor your EMDR sessions to your comfort level and pace, ensuring a personalized approach to healing. By engaging in self-EMDR, you may uncover meaning and resolution in your traumatic experiences, which can be profoundly healing.
Additionally, the practice has the potential to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. It fosters overall improvements in your mental health and general well-being.
Self-administered EMDR offers a holistic approach to healing, addressing emotional distress, improving concentration, enhancing self-efficacy, and ultimately promoting better mental health.

The Pros And Cons Of Self-Administered EMDR

When choosing to engage in self-administered EMDR therapy, the benefits and drawbacks must be carefully considered. On the one hand, if you're interested in learning this technique, there are many tools and supports available.
Research also indicates that self-administered EMDR can be helpful in certain situations, mainly when it's the only suitable course of action, such as lacking access to EMDR therapy, not being able to pay for official treatment, or having an acute condition that requires quick attention.
Nine of the eleven participants who answered post-treatment questionnaires in a 2013 research by Spence, Titov, Johnson et al. stated they would suggest the course to a friend. However, skilled EMDR practitioners are advised against using self-administered EMDR for anything to save minor traumas because of the risk of retraumatizing oneself or failing to treat the trauma at hand adequately.
It's also critical to realize that implementing EMDR without a thorough comprehension of the procedure might be ineffective and lead to limited, no, or only partial trauma healing.
Woman Covering Eyes With Hands
Woman Covering Eyes With Hands

How Can One Minimize The Risks Of Self-Administered EMDR Therapy?

Self-administered EMDR therapy can be risky, but there are ways to minimize the risks involved. Here are some ways to minimize the risks of self-administered EMDR therapy:

Work With A Skilled EMDR Therapist

A skilled EMDR therapist can help you minimize the risks involved in self-administered EMDR therapy. They can guide you through the process and help you address any issues that may arise during the therapy.

Familiarize Yourself With The 8-Step EMDR Process

It is essential to understand the 8-step EMDR process and its components before attempting self-administered EMDR therapy.

Proceed With Caution

Even if you have no idea what you're doing going into self-administered EMDR therapy, it is crucial to proceed with caution.

Use A Virtual EMDR Therapy Tool

Alternatively, you can also use a virtual EMDR therapy tool that allows you to self-administer the therapy. This allows you to set the pace for yourself and do it in an environment that feels comfortable for you.
It is important to note that professionals do not often recommend self-administered EMDR therapy, and it is always best to consult with a skilled EMDR therapist before attempting self-administered EMDR therapy.

Can You Do Emdr On Yourself? - FAQs

Is Virtual EMDR As Effective As In-Person?

Researchers have found that online EMDR works just as well as in-person sessions for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and a lot of other issues.

Can EMDR Be Done On The Phone?

Offering to have a phone conversation with clients who are hesitant to undertake remote treatment might encourage them to "give it a try." In order to use EMDR treatment, the therapist must assist the patient in engaging with traumatic memories.

When Should You Not Use EMDR?

People who suffer from dissociative disorders, such as dissociative amnesia, should not get EMDR therapy because they experience emotional detachment.

Should You Try EMDR On Yourself?

It is advised that you limit your use of self-administered EMDR programs to smaller-scale traumas, such as "minor" events that have occurred recently.


Can you do EMDR on yourself? This is a common question, and it's essential to understand the implications of self-administered EMDR. EMDR is a recognized treatment for PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. While self-administered EMDR is feasible, it's generally recommended for addressing smaller-scale recent traumas, and it's vital to consider the potential risks.
Research suggests that self-administered psychological therapies can be effective, but caution is necessary. The dual focus principle, concentrating on both the back-and-forth stimulation and inner feelings, is crucial for EMDR's success when done independently.
Minimizing risks involves working with a skilled therapist, understanding the 8-step EMDR process, and using virtual EMDR therapy tools.
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