Understanding and Managing EMDR Side Effects

Dec 22, 2023

Welcome to DrEricMeyer.com, your trusted source for insightful information on counseling and mental health. In this article, we will dive deep into the topic of EMDR side effects and provide you with the knowledge to understand and manage them effectively.

The Power of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy, also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a highly effective treatment method for individuals struggling with trauma, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It has gained popularity in recent years due to its ability to bring relief and healing to those who have experienced emotional distress.

During an EMDR therapy session, a trained therapist guides the client through a series of eye movements or other bilateral stimulation techniques while they focus on past traumatic experiences or distressing memories. This process helps the brain reprocess the painful memories and alleviate the associated negative emotions and beliefs.

The Importance of Being Informed

As with any therapeutic intervention, it is crucial to be fully informed about the potential side effects of EMDR therapy. However, it's important to note that the majority of individuals experience minimal side effects, and the benefits of the treatment often far outweigh any temporary discomfort that may arise.

Understanding Common Side Effects

While every individual's experience with EMDR therapy is unique, there are some common side effects that may occur during or after a session. These side effects are generally short-lived and tend to diminish as the therapy progresses.

1. Emotional Discomfort

Some individuals may experience temporary feelings of heightened emotional distress during or after an EMDR session. This can include anger, sadness, anxiety, or irritability. It is essential to remember that these emotions are a natural part of the healing process and can indicate progress towards resolving past trauma.

2. Vivid Dreams or Nightmares

Another common side effect reported by some individuals undergoing EMDR therapy is an increase in vivid dreams or nightmares. This phenomenon may be a result of the mind working through traumatic memories during sleep. Keeping a dream journal and discussing these dreams with your therapist can provide valuable insights into your healing journey.

3. Physical Sensations

It is not uncommon for individuals to experience physical sensations during EMDR therapy. These sensations can vary from subtle discomfort to temporary muscle tension, headaches, or fatigue. Somatic experiences often accompany the release of stored trauma and usually fade away over time as the healing progresses.

4. Temporary Cognitive Disturbances

Some individuals may also notice temporary cognitive disturbances during or after EMDR sessions. This can manifest as difficulty concentrating, memory recall challenges, or having scattered thoughts. These cognitive disturbances are typically transitory and resolve as the therapy evolves.

Managing and Minimizing Side Effects

While side effects are relatively common, there are several strategies you can employ to manage and minimize any discomfort you may experience during or after EMDR therapy sessions. Remember, your therapist is there to support you throughout the process, so don't hesitate to discuss any concerns or difficulties you may encounter.

1. Self-Care and Rest

Engaging in self-care activities and prioritizing rest can play a significant role in minimizing side effects. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, engage in regular exercise, and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Taking care of your overall well-being promotes a smoother healing process.

2. Open Communication with Your Therapist

Establishing open and honest communication with your therapist is paramount. They are trained to help you navigate any side effects that may arise during your sessions, and having an ongoing dialogue can aid in identifying any potential triggers or additional support you may need.

3. Utilizing Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques can be immensely beneficial in managing distressing emotions or physical sensations. Techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, or engaging your senses through activities like aromatherapy can provide a sense of comfort and stability.

4. Patience and Self-Compassion

It is important to approach your EMDR therapy journey with patience and self-compassion. Healing takes time, and everyone's experience is different. Recognize and honor any progress you make, no matter how small it may seem. Trust the process and allow yourself the space to heal.


EMDR therapy is a powerful tool for healing trauma and various mental health conditions. While temporary side effects may occur, the wide range of benefits far outweigh any discomfort experienced during the therapy process. Remember to stay informed, communicate with your therapist, and practice self-care as you embark on your EMDR journey.

For more information on EMDR therapy, mental health, and counseling, visit DrEricMeyer.com. Dr. Eric Meyer is an experienced counselor dedicated to helping individuals overcome their emotional struggles and live fulfilling lives. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and begin your transformational journey towards healing.