What to Expect After EMDR Therapy Sessions

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health concerns. EMDR specifically entails moving your eyes in particular movements as you process traumatic memories.

Unlike some other therapy approaches, EMDR does not mean inherently talking excessively about what happened in your past. Instead, this model focuses on changing the thoughts or emotions associated with your distressing experiences.

Many clients find EMDR to be transformative in their healing process. That said, you may notice yourself feeling intense emotions during and after each session ends. Knowing what to expect can help you take better care of yourself.


Overview of EMDR Therapy

EMDR is a structured treatment that consists of eight phases intended to help resolve traumatic memories and improve your overall emotional well-being. In addition to treating PTSD symptoms, EMDR can also treat depression, anxiety, impulsivity issues, and low self-esteem. EMDR is evidence-based and can be used for both children and adults.

While most therapists have experience in trauma, an EMDR therapist needs specific certification and training. The treatment typically consists of a series of sessions, and the length of care varies based on numerous factors, including past experiences in therapy, the type of issues you’re working on, and the current state of your mental health.

EMDR starts by exploring the issues currently impacting you. For some people, that’s a single traumatic event. For others, the distress may be more complex, chronic, or developmental in nature.

The work of EMDR consists of bilateral stimulation. Your therapist will guide you into focusing on your target event while engaging in rapid eye movements, auditory bilateral stimulation (using tones or taps), or tactile bilateral stimulation (using pulsars or vibration). After completing the stimulation, you will be encouraged to observe whatever emotions and body sensations emerge. We will continue repeating the stimulation exercises.

Closure is always an important part of EMDR therapy. At the end of each session, you will discuss what happened and review how you can cope if you still feel dysregulated.

A woman sitting on a couch stares with a blank expression. This could represent being lost in traumatic thoughts that an EMDR therapist in Seattle, WA can help you address. Learn about the benefits of EMDR therapy in Seattle, WA, and overcome past trauma today.

How You Might Feel During EMDR Therapy Sessions

In general, people tend to feel raw when they revisit traumatic memories. All forms of talk therapy can be emotionally charged, but the EMDR process can magnify some vulnerable feelings. Keep in your mind that your therapist will spend time reviewing and practicing grounding skills with you before engaging in stimulation exercises. These techniques can help you manage any discomfort that arises during EMDR. In addition, you will both agree on a specific signal (like putting up your hand) to indicate that you need to stop.

Here are some reactions you may notice in EMDR

Heightened physical sensations: Rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, feeling extra hot or cold, and muscle tightness can happen in EMDR therapy. These sensations represent your sympathetic nervous system identifying danger and being activated. Although the reactions are normal, they may feel uncomfortable.

Anxiety/restlessness: Anxiety is also a common response. This can manifest as the physical sensations above. But it can also be more cerebral. Some clients, for example, worry about doing EMDR “the right way.” Or, they might feel insecure about being judged by their therapist.

Shame: Shame often coincides with trauma, and it can perpetuate negative thoughts and negative emotions. As you talk about the things that happened to you in the past, you might also notice yourself feeling more embarrassed or guilty than usual.

Anger: Anger can feel pronounced during EMDR, especially if you’re talking about an upsetting event that hasn’t been resolved. You might even feel angry with your therapist for encouraging you to do this work. During therapy, anger can be outward (feeling angry at the people who harmed you) or inward (feeling angry about how you reacted or didn’t react or feeling angry about where you are in your life right now).

Dissociation: Dissociation sometimes happens when processing distressing memories or traumatic experiences. When you dissociate, there’s a break in how your mind integrates information. You may feel like you’re disconnected from your body altogether. This reaction can happen at any point during EMDR.

Relief: Some clients feel relieved talking about their emotions and past experiences within a safe therapeutic environment. Knowing that you’re cared for during this vulnerable time can be profoundly impactful in your recovery process.


How You Might Feel After an EMDR Session

After an EMDR session, you might find yourself feeling fatigued, overwhelmed, depressed, or even numb. These are normal reactions associated with processing intense emotions. You may feel more sensitive than usual for the rest of the day.

Here are some things you may notice after EMDR:

Fatigue: Many people report feeling extra tired after EMDR. Just like your body can feel drained after an invigorating workout, a therapy session can cause a similar effect.

Confusion: EMDR brings difficult content to your conscious awareness. You may feel confused about your own emotions or needs. You might find yourself questioning specific values or relationships. Sometimes EMDR brings other memories to the surface, which can also be confusing.

Anger: You may experience anger both during and after the EMDR session. Usually, this anger is a reaction to a sense of injustice that may be related to past trauma. You might also feel angry if you don’t feel like things are getting better.

Sadness: It’s also normal to feel sad after EMDR sessions. You might feel sad about what happened to you in the past, and you might also feel sad if you’re struggling with your self-worth or self-esteem.

Numbness: Some clients feel numb after therapy. This may be due to dissociation, and it can also be your body’s way of trying to protect itself from being flooded with emotional stimuli. This numbness can persist for several hours or the rest of the day.

Vivid dreams: Some clients report having more vivid dreams than usual on the night of therapy (or for a few nights after an intense session). This may be your subconscious processing past events or trying to make sense of what you’re trying to resolve.

Negative beliefs: Although EMDR aims to untangle people from their negative beliefs, that work doesn’t happen overnight. You may leave your session feeling worse about yourself, and you might worry that things will never get better.

Emotionally triggered: If you struggle with compulsive issues (overeating, substance use, gambling), you may notice heightened cravings just after leaving therapy. This desire to escape speaks to the discomfort associated with processing such sensitive material.

Desire to terminate therapy altogether: It’s also common for people to question therapy or wonder if EMDR is right for them. You may notice that you feel extra cynical just after finishing a session. This can happen at any point during EMDR, but it may be more intensified during a more emotionally-complex session.  This reaction can emerge due to feeling discomfort or shame in processing your trauma. You may not feel like you deserve to heal, or you might worry that you won’t ever feel better. This is a typical fear clients experience in trauma-based therapies.

A person in a hoodie looks out at a cityscape in the evening. This could represent the isolation of trauma that EMDR therapy in Seattle, WA can help you overcome. Contact an EMDR therapist in Seattle, WA to learn more about the benefits of online EMDR therapy in Seattle, WA, and across the state.

How to Take Care of Yourself After an EMDR Session

Some people can move about their days after EMDR therapy, and they even find that compartmentalization to be beneficial. Others need more time to ground themselves and regroup before moving on.

If you notice yourself feeling particularly sensitive after therapy, here are some strategies that can help:

Plan your sessions accordingly: If it’s feasible, try to plan sessions during the “less-busy” part of your week. Having extra time can allow you to give yourself more grace just before and after your therapy.

Try to block off some time after your session: If possible, try to block off at least 30-60 minutes after therapy to reconnect with yourself. If that’s not possible, even just committing to a few minutes of deep breathing can make a difference in helping you “close” the session and gently transition into your next task.

Take a walk: Getting some physical activity outside can help stimulate relaxation. Research shows that walking can also produce endorphins, which may improve your mood.

Practice relaxation techniques: In EMDR, you will learn various coping strategies that you can use when you feel overwhelmed. These techniques might include positive visualization exercises, breathing exercises, mindfulness, and positive affirmations.

Spend time with supportive loved ones: You may find it helpful to dedicate some time after therapy to spend reconnecting with friends and family. Ideally, these people should be aware of what you’re working on in therapy, and they should be supportive of your growth process.

Journal about how you feel: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you ground yourself. Journaling may also unveil new insights about your recovery. You may find it beneficial to share your journaling with your therapist during your next session.

Allow yourself to cry: All emotions after EMDR are valid and real. Emotional expression isn’t just for your therapy sessions- the more you can embrace feeling your feelings in real-time, the more authentic your healing process will be.

Make a plan with your therapist: If you continuously find yourself struggling after EMDR sessions, talk about what’s going on with your therapist. They will collaborate with you to help you cope in-between sessions. Even though EMDR is a structured protocol, there’s always room for flexibility, especially when you’re in a heightened state. If you notice that you have a desire to quit treatment, please consider talking about that with your therapist as well.

A woman smiles while journaling in a notebook on a couch. This could symbolize a self-care technique for trauma learned from an EMDR therapist in Seattle, WA. Learn how online EMDR in Seattle, WA can offer support from the comfort of home today.

Begin EMDR Therapy in Seattle, WA and Across Washington State

EMDR therapy can benefit people of all ages and mental health needs. If you have felt stuck in a traumatic memory- or you haven’t gotten much progress in other therapies- you may be a good candidate for this type of treatment.

While you can’t change what happened to you, it’s my hope that this work with Inner Wisdom will offer you the inner peace and healing you’ve been needing.

I offer online EMDR therapy in Seattle, WA, and greater Washington State. It would be my honor to support you in your journey toward wellness. My goal is to provide you with a safe environment where you can genuinely feel supported and understood.

If you’d like to learn more about the process, please follow these simple steps:

  1.  Contact me to schedule your free consultation.
  2. Get to know me and my therapy process
  3. Start getting unstuck from past trauma

Other Services Offered with Inner Wisdom Counseling

EMDR isn’t the only service I offer mental health support with. I know you may experience other mental health concerns, which is why I’m happy to also offer depression treatment, treatment for anxiety, and life transitions therapy. I also offer LGBTQIA+ therapy and online therapy are also offered across the state of Washington. Contact Inner Wisdom today to learn more helpful info!



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