How long does EMDR Take?
Clients often ask me how many sessions it will take to complete EMDR therapy. This is a great question! Therapy of any kind is a financial investment and time commitment, so it’s important to have a general idea of how long EMDR takes before you dive in.
While it’s impossible for EMDR therapists to predict precisely how many sessions you’ll need, they can give you a rough estimate. Read on to learn about some factors your therapist considers when estimating how long EMDR therapy will take for you.
The Type of Trauma You Want to Process with EMDR
Processing isolated single-incident traumas, such as a traumatic experience giving birth, will usually take fewer sessions than processing complex trauma, such as abuse that occurred over the course of months or years. While it’s possible to complete EMDR therapy for a single-incident trauma in 8-12 sessions, don’t be surprised if it takes several months to fully process complex trauma using EMDR.
Your Current Coping Skills
EMDR therapy has eight phases. Before you start processing your trauma, your therapist will teach you some grounding and self-soothing skills for use during and in-between EMDR sessions (phase 2). In EMDR we call these “resources.” They’ll also get familiar with your window of tolerance. If you’re already generally able to stay within your window of tolerance while focusing on the trauma, and you can effectively use resources to ground and self-soothe, you’ll move through phase 2 of EMDR in just a few sessions. If you need extra support developing these skills and practicing them you may spend several sessions in phase 2. Your therapist will use what they know about your coping skills and ability to stay within your window of tolerance to help predict how much time you'll need to spend in phase 2.
Whether Additional Interventions are Needed
Sometimes EMDR processing goes smoothly, sometimes challenges arise. If you feel stuck or are having trouble staying within your window of tolerance while processing, your therapist may need to adjust the plan or provide interventions to help processing move forward. Some of these adjustments can make EMDR take longer. If your therapist knows you well it can be easier for them to predict whether or not additional clinical interventions may be needed, however sometimes we don’t know until we’ve already started processing the memory. According to the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), "Although EMDR therapy may produce results more rapidly than other forms of therapy, speed is not the goal of therapy, and it is essential to remember that every client has different needs.”
Still have questions about EMDR? Check out these resources from the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA):
Interested in trying EMDR? Check out this directory of EMDR therapists or book a free, 15-minute consultation with me to see if we are a good fit. I am an EMDR Certified therapist and provide EMDR online and in my office in Brentwood, TN.
This blog post isn’t intended as professional counseling or clinical advice. If you’re in need of support, please consider speaking to a professional to be evaluated.