EMDR for Fear: Overcoming Anxiety

emdr for fear

Have you ever experienced an overwhelming sense of dread or anxiety? For some people, it is a constant battle to keep these feelings at bay. One effective treatment option is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR is a powerful psychological technique that helps individuals overcome their fears, phobias and anxiety. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how EMDR works, its potential benefits, and how it can support you in conquering your anxieties.

Understanding EMDR and its Origins

Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, EMDR has grown in popularity due to its efficacy in treating various mental health issues, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR is a psychotherapeutic approach that uses a unique process of bilateral stimulation – using both sides of the brain through eye movements or other modalities – to help individuals process and release distressing memories or thoughts.

A Brief Explanation of EMDR’s Eight Phases

EMDR therapy involves a structured, eight-phase approach, designed to help clients move through the therapeutic process effectively:

  1. Client History and Treatment Planning: This phase assesses the client’s presenting issues and establishes a treatment plan.
  2. Preparation: The therapist provides education about EMDR therapy, as well as tools to manage emotional distress.
  3. Assessment: During this phase, the therapist identifies specific memories or thoughts to target using EMDR.
  4. Desensitization: The therapist guides the client through bilateral stimulation to process distressing memories.
  5. Installation: The therapist helps the client strengthen positive beliefs associated with the targeted memories or thoughts.
  6. Body Scan: This phase focuses on identifying any residual physical sensations related to the distressing memories or thoughts.
  7. Closure: The therapist ensures the client’s emotional stability before ending the session.
  8. Reevaluation: At the beginning of the subsequent session, the therapist evaluates the progress made and decides on the future course of action.

How Does Bilateral Stimulation Work in EMDR?

In EMDR therapy, bilateral stimulation serves as the key component that allows the brain to naturally process and integrate distressing information. So, how does this work? The therapist guides the client’s eye movements by moving his or her fingers back and forth across the client’s field of vision. This prompts the brain to activate both its left and right hemispheres, helping the individual to “digest” their emotional experiences more effectively. Alternative forms of bilateral stimulation include the use of auditory or tactile stimuli, such as listening to alternating tones or holding pulsing devices.

EMDR in Treating Fear and Anxiety

Now that we have a basic understanding of the EMDR process, let’s delve into its efficacy in treating fear and anxiety-related issues.

Why is EMDR Effective for Fear and Anxiety?

Fear and anxiety often stem from past experiences or traumatic events that have left individuals feeling unsafe, vulnerable, or threatened. These emotions can become deeply ingrained in our brains and create a lasting impact on our daily lives. EMDR therapy is effective in alleviating fear and anxiety by facilitating the reprocessing of dysfunctional core beliefs and distressing memories that perpetuate these negative emotional states. In doing so, EMDR helps individuals develop a healthier perspective on their past experiences, allowing them to let go of fear and anxiety more easily.

EMDR and Phobias: Reshaping Patterns of Fear

Phobias are exaggerated, irrational fears of specific objects or situations often characterized by a compelling need to avoid the source of fear. EMDR can be highly effective in treating phobias by targeting the underlying memories and beliefs that drive these fears. By desensitizing the fear response and encouraging adaptive responses, EMDR therapy can help individuals gain control over their phobic reactions and live more fulfilling, fear-free lives.

Real-Life Examples of EMDR Success

EMDR has been successfully applied in treating fear and anxiety in various contexts. Here are a few real-life examples of its effectiveness:

  • Fear of Flying: One study found that a single 90-minute EMDR session significantly reduced participants’ anxiety and increased their willingness to book a flight.
  • Public Speaking Anxiety: A study involving a group of students with speech anxiety saw significant improvement in participants’ fear of public speaking following EMDR treatment.
  • Driving Phobia: A case study of a woman suffering from a driving phobia reported substantial improvement in her fear and avoidance of driving post-EMDR therapy.

Steps for Finding an EMDR Therapist

If you’re considering EMDR as a treatment option for your fears or anxiety, it’s crucial to find a qualified therapist to guide you through the process. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Research EMDR Therapists: Look for therapists who are certified or trained in EMDR therapy by reputable organizations, such as the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA).
  2. Consult Your Doctor: Talk to your primary care physician or mental health professional for a referral or recommendation.
  3. Interview Potential Therapists: Reach out to prospective EMDR therapists and ask about their experience, qualifications, and treatment approach to ensure they are a good fit for your needs.
  4. Trust Your Instincts: Choose a therapist with whom you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and emotions, as this will greatly affect the therapeutic outcome.
  5. Give us a shout 🙂 – Mosaic Way Counseling specializes in trauma and every therapist goes through advanced trauma training including EMDR training.


EMDR therapy offers a powerful and effective means to overcome fear, phobias, and anxiety. Its unique method of bilateral stimulation helps individuals process and release distressing memories, enabling them to develop healthier perspectives on their past experiences. If you or someone you know is struggling with fear or anxiety, consider EMDR as a viable treatment option to help open the door to a more fulfilling, fear-free life.

2 thoughts on “EMDR for Fear: Overcoming Anxiety

  1. She’ll be affirmed to know that by assisting in the reprocessing of problematic core beliefs and upsetting memories that fuel these negative emotional states, EMDR treatment is useful in reducing dread and anxiety. Seeing my sister-in-law’s daily life disrupted by persistent anxiety that affects her well-being, she’s actively seeking effective ways to manage her condition. With her therapist recommending Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy as a potential tool to address the root causes of her anxiety and develop coping mechanisms, she’s seriously considering it as a path toward finding relief and improving her mental health.

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