Do It Yourself EMDR:  Is It Possible?  Is It Safe?

You may have heard of EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The technique is used by therapists for processing difficult or traumatic experiences. This is done in an office environment with someone who is trained in the technique. However, it is possible for clients to learn a do it yourself EMDR program that they can use at home?

How Does EMDR Work?

According to the EMDR Institute, EMDR is an eight-phase program. In Phases 3-6,  a therapist has the client use bilateral stimulation while processing images that come to mind. This stimulation can come in the form of eye movements or even hand buzzers that vibrate. The imagery contains thoughts or memories that the client finds distressing. The idea is to get the client to a point where they no longer find the memories disturbing and can substitute positive beliefs for the negative. Eventually, the client is able to resolve the traumatic memories and no longer feels distressed.

Learning Do It Yourself EMDR

Part of the EMDR process is to actually learn techniques for easing anxiety that you can do outside of sessions. These are methods you can learn from your therapist, or may be found online.  For instance:

  • “Hug” Method:  Bring up the palm of each hand and cross them over the chest onto the forearm of the opposing arm. Close your eyes and be aware of your breathing. Gently tap the left, then right hands. When your mind drifts, bring it back to the tapping.
  • While sitting, lay each of your hands palm-down onto your legs. Close your eyes, focusing on your breathing. Then begin to tap your legs with your hands. This creates that bilateral stimulation.

These are techniques you can do anytime when you begin to feel anxious. Your therapistwill have other ideas as well.

Is EMDR Safe?

EMDR is a safe technique for processing trauma. There may be times when very difficult memories come to the surface. These can be processed to better understand them. You can always stop until you feel better. The EMDR Institute notes that there isn’t any evidence that EMDR will cause seizures. Only three people have had seizures using EMDR, and they already had seizures prior to treatment.

Are There Other Do It Yourself EMDR Resources?

Yes! Again, the EMDR Institute has a book available on its website called “Getting Past Your Past:  How to Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy.” The book provides examples of EMDR methods and exercises to help you practice them. Want another resource? Look no further than YouTube! A simple search of the site brings up lots of videos that teach EMDR.

Is Do It Yourself EMDR Possible?

The short answer: partially. It is possible to learn how to cope with the anxiety and distress that comes up from experiencing a traumatic memory. Being able to handle these moments effectively can help in your recovery process. However, obtaining the full benefits of EMDR requires being able to talk with a therapist to process the memories and resolve them.  His or her support can be helpful for stretching yourself to face memories that you may be more tempted to avoid. The result is a more in-depth process than what you would get alone.

EMDR is a safe and effective technique for those who struggle with traumatic memories and want help. Clients can incorporate EMDR into their everyday lives for periods when these images come up. A therapist though, can help you get the full benefit of this technique by guiding you through the process. Also, it helps that therapists can be a sounding board, aid your navigation through tough memories, and help you resolve the past.

Questions, Concerns, Thoughts?

I invite you to call me for a free 15 – minute phone consultation to discuss your specific needs and to answer any questions you have about anxiety, treatment and my practice. Please visit my website @ or call me directly @ (206) 745-4933.