What Can You Expect Following Your First EMDR Session?

Some people approach EMDR expecting miracles overnight—you don’t have to look hard to find testimonials all over the internet from people who have been helped by EMDR and are willing to attest to how effective it is. While the results come more quickly than with most traditional talk therapies, they do still take time. With that in mind, EMDR is a goal-oriented, results-driven form of psychotherapy. Many clients see tangible results and report differences in how they perceive and interact with the world around them.

 If you’re considering EMDR therapy, you may be wondering what to expect. While everyone’s experience is different, here are some of the most commonly reported post-session effects:

Physical Sensations

Immediately after an EMDR session, you may feel unusually tired. EMDR Therapy centers on exploring emotionally intense, frequently traumatic memories. Recalling and exploring these memories in vivid detail can be both intellectually and emotionally exhausting. You may notice lightheadedness, changes in your sleep patterns (including vivid or unusually intense dreams), as well as soreness and tension in your muscles.

EMDR therapy takes advantage of bilateral stimulation to improve our access to the areas of the brain where emotional or traumatic memories are stored. Those memories frequently carry with them physical sensations and raw emotions like anger. It’s possible for physical sensations and emotions associated with traumatic memories to bubble to the surface after an EMDR session.

Improved Recall

After an EMDR session your brain is working overtime to form new connections. This process is part of how EMDR leverages the brain’s natural ability to heal. As a result, you may find yourself suddenly able to consciously recall memories with greater clarity and detail than you could previously. These details may come to you unexpectedly for several days after an EMDR session, and sometimes catch people by surprise.

man smiling at camera with hands held out in front of himEmotional Reactions

Because traumatic memories are tightly correlated with emotional responses, it’s not unusual for clients to feel more emotional than usual after an EMDR session. You may find yourself struggling with raw emotions. You might be more irritable than usual, or perhaps weepier or more anxious. These reactions are all perfectly normal, and are part of the healing process. It’s important to let them work through you.

Changes in Perception

Many people report an overall increase in sharpness and clarity of their senses after an EMDR session. Colors might pop a little brighter, smells may seem a little sharper, or sounds may be harder to tune out. Again, this is perfectly normal. Your brain is working overtime. This is a natural result.

Introspection & Growth

Because EMDR therapy often deals extensively with self-reflection, you may find yourself looking at your own patterns and behaviors from new perspectives you never considered before. As your brain works to reprocess traumatic experiences, you may find yourself making new connections about the decisions and choices you’ve made over the years since. This is an opportunity to break bad habits and adopt healthier ones—it’s also an opportunity to see yourself with increased empathy and care.

Impact on Symptoms

Whatever symptoms of trauma you’re struggling with, you may find that they are heightened in the days immediately following your first EMDR session. Some clients report increased anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and even flashbacks. While this can be unpleasant and emotionally draining, it is a normal part of the EMDR therapy process, and diminishes over time as traumatic memories are reprocessed.

Schedule a Consultation

EMDR therapy is a safe, non-pharmacological form of psychotherapy with a proven track record of success treating everything from depression & drug addiction to ptsd. While EMDR therapy may feel emotionally intense at first, clients report significant improvements after only a few sessions. Reach out today to schedule an appointment if you’re learning more about how EMDR therapy may benefit you.