EMDR Therapy for Stress Relief: Unpacking the Benefits and Process

EMDR For Stress

While traditional stress management techniques like meditation and exercise are widely recommended, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy offers a unique and effective alternative. This therapy uses bilateral stimulation to help individuals process and release stress, leading to improved emotional well-being. In this blog, we will delve into how EMDR works, its benefits for stress relief, and what one can expect during a session.

Does EMDR Work For Stress?

Does EMDR Work For Stress?Yes, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy can be effective for managing stress, although it was originally developed for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The underlying principle of EMDR involves bilateral stimulation, such as side-to-side eye movements. This is believed to mimic the psychological state associated with Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

This process helps the brain process and integrate traumatic memories or intense emotional experiences that can contribute to stress. Research and clinical practice have shown that EMDR can help alleviate the symptoms of acute stress and chronic stress. The therapy’s approach to addressing the root causes of emotional distress — often linked to past experiences — allows individuals to develop healthier coping mechanisms.

How To Do EMDR Step-by-Step?

EMDR for stress is a complex therapeutic process typically administered by trained professionals. If you’re interested in understanding the general steps involved in an EMDR therapy session, here they are outlined below. However, it’s important to note that these steps should be guided by a certified EMDR therapist to ensure safety and effectiveness.


Below are the steps involved

History Taking and Treatment Planning

The therapist will first gather a comprehensive history of the client and identify potential target memories for EMDR processing. This includes discussing the client’s current stressors, past traumas, and other relevant personal history.


The therapist ensures that the client has adequate coping mechanisms to handle emotional distress. They introduce the EMDR therapy technique, explain the process, and teach self-control techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness.


In this step, the therapist asks the client to select a specific memory to target, including the associated image, negative belief about self, and bodily sensations. The client also identifies a positive belief they would like to have. The intensity of the negative emotions and sensations is rated using a scale (usually 0-10).


The therapist guides the client through sets of bilateral stimulation (eye movements, taps, or tones) while the client focuses on the traumatic memory, emotions, and body sensations. This continues until the memory causes less disturbance and is rated lower on the emotional intensity scale.


The positive belief identified during the assessment phase is then strengthened and ‘installed’ with the memory. Bilateral stimulation is used again to reinforce this positive belief while the client focuses on the memory and the positive cognition.

Body Scan

The client is asked to think about the memory and the positive belief, and then to notice any residual bodily tension or discomfort. Any remaining distress is targeted with further bilateral stimulation until the client feels calm when recalling the memory.


Every session ends with a closure to ensure the client feels better than at the beginning of the session. If the memory is not fully processed in one session, techniques are provided to manage any residual stress, and a plan is made to continue processing in future sessions.


At the start of the next session, the therapist checks the client’s current psychological state and the status of the previously processed memories. This helps to determine if the positive results have been maintained and to identify any new areas that need to be addressed.

These steps constitute a full cycle of EMDR therapy. And, may be repeated multiple times across sessions depending on the client’s needs and progress.

When Is EMDR For Stress Not Recommended?

When Is EMDR For Stress Not Recommended?EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is highly effective for many individuals dealing with stress and trauma. However, there are certain conditions and scenarios where its use might be inappropriate or require special consideration:

Individuals with severe mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe dissociative disorders may not be suitable candidates for EMDR. As it could potentially exacerbate symptoms.

  • Unstable Life Situations

For those experiencing significant life instability (such as homelessness, active substance abuse, or recent traumatic events), it may be advisable to stabilize these external situations before embarking on EMDR therapy.

  • Lack of Coping Mechanisms

EMDR requires the ability to cope with emotionally charged memories and intense feelings. If an individual lacks adequate emotional coping strategies or a supportive environment, they may struggle to handle the emotional responses that can be triggered by EMDR therapy.

  • Certain Neurological Conditions

Individuals with certain neurological conditions that affect brain structure and function, such as epilepsy or severe migraines, should approach EMDR with caution. The rapid eye movements involved in the therapy could potentially trigger neurological symptoms.

  • Dissociative Symptoms

Those who have a history of dissociation or dissociative identity disorder may require modified EMDR approaches. Standard protocols may need adjustment to ensure that the treatment does not lead to increased dissociation or confusion.

  • Recent Surgery or Physical Trauma

If someone has recently undergone surgery, particularly involving the eyes or brain, or if they have experienced physical trauma. Then, it is essential to consult with a medical professional before starting EMDR.

It is important for anyone considering EMDR therapy to discuss their full medical and psychological history with a qualified therapist. This ensures that the therapy can be tailored to their specific needs and adjusted for safety and effectiveness.

What Are The Approaches Used In EMDR?

EMDR for stress employs a unique structured approach to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. It integrates various elements from different therapeutic disciplines into its protocol. Here are the key approaches used in EMDR:

Bilateral Stimulation

The most well-known component of EMDR is bilateral stimulation, which typically involves guiding the client’s eyes to move back and forth across their field of vision. This can also be accomplished through auditory tones that alternate between ears or tactile taps that alternate between hands. This stimulation is believed to mimic the psychological state associated with REM sleep. Thus, helping the brain to process and integrate traumatic memories.

Structured Protocols

EMDR therapy follows a structured eight-phase approach that includes:

  • History and treatment planning
  • Preparation (establishing trust and explaining the therapy)
  • Assessment (identifying the traumatic memory and negative beliefs)
  • Desensitization (processing the memory using bilateral stimulation)
  • Installation (strengthening positive beliefs)
  • Body scan (identifying and resolving residual somatic distress)
  • Closure (returning the client to equilibrium at the end of each session)
  • Reevaluation (ensuring stability of therapeutic gains and identifying further targets for treatment)

Cognitive and Behavioral Techniques

While bilateral stimulation is a central element, EMDR also incorporates aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Clients identify negative beliefs associated with their traumatic memories and work to transform these through therapy into more positive and empowering beliefs.

Somatic Experiencing

EMDR therapy emphasizes the physical sensations associated with traumatic memories. During the body scan phase, clients focus on physical sensations and use bilateral stimulation. This is to help reduce or eliminate any discomfort, a process similar to somatic experiencing techniques used in other forms of therapy.

Psychodynamic Insights

The process of identifying and understanding the personal meanings and beliefs linked to traumatic memories borrows from psychodynamic therapy. This approach helps in understanding how past experiences influence current behavior and emotions.

Attachment Theory

In EMDR, understanding the individual’s early attachments and how these influence their trauma and coping strategies can be crucial. Especially when dealing with childhood trauma and its effects on adult psychological resilience.

Imaginal Exposure

Imaginal ExposureSimilar to prolonged exposure therapy, EMDR involves the client being asked to recall distressing images while receiving bilateral stimulation. This reduces the vividness and emotion associated with the memories, a process known as imaginal exposure.

Overall, EMDR is a multifaceted therapeutic approach that draws on various psychological theories and practices. Hence, it is to help clients heal from trauma and other distressing life experiences.


In conclusion, EMDR for stress is a powerful therapy that combines eye movements, auditory tones, or physical taps with cognitive and emotional strategies to help individuals overcome the effects of stress and trauma. By addressing past experiences, changing negative beliefs, and relieving physical tension associated with these memories, EMDR can foster healing and improve emotional resilience.

For more information, please contact MantraCare. Stress can have both physical and mental effects on the body, leading to negative consequences such as anxiety, depression, and even physical illnesses. If you have any queries regarding Online Stress Counseling experienced therapists at MantraCare can help: Book a trial Stress therapy session

Try MantraCare Wellness Program free

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.