Why Self-Administered EMDR is a bad idea

Self-Administered EMDR Dangers

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychological therapy technique that has been proven effective for treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, attempting to perform EMDR on oneself without proper training and supervision is a dangerous and ill-advised practice. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why self-administered EMDR is a bad idea, and the various potential risks associated with its implementation.

Table of Contents

  1. What is EMDR?
  2. Risks of Self-Administered EMDR
  3. Consequences of Unsuitable Treatment
  4. Alternatives to Self-Administered EMDR
  5. Conclusion
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s for the treatment of PTSD and other trauma-related disorders. The therapy involves bilateral stimulation, such as side-to-side eye movements, rhythmic tapping, or audio tones, which helps patients process and release distressing memories. EMDR has been extensively researched and is recognized as an evidenced-based treatment for PTSD.

How EMDR Works

During an EMDR session, the therapist helps the patient recall a traumatic memory while simultaneously initiating bilateral stimulation. This process works to desensitize the individual to the memory and helps them develop more adaptive beliefs about the event.

EMDR is generally completed in several stages, including:

  1. Client history and treatment planning
  2. Preparation
  3. Assessment
  4. Desensitization
  5. Installation
  6. Body scan
  7. Closure
  8. Reevaluation

Risks of Self-Administered EMDR

While EMDR can be an effective treatment for trauma, attempting to perform it without proper training and guidance can be harmful. Here are some of the risks associated with self-administered EMDR:

Insufficient Professional Assessment

EMDR is not appropriate for all individuals, and a professional assessment is necessary to determine the suitability of the therapy. Without an experienced therapist’s evaluation, self-administering EMDR could exacerbate psychological distress.

Lack of Emotional Support and Safety

During EMDR, therapists ensure their clients have the necessary emotional support and are in a secure environment. These conditions may not be met when attempting EMDR on your own, leading to potential harm.

Inadequate Processing of Traumatic Memories

Successfully processing traumatic memories requires therapeutic guidance to prevent further psychological distress. Without professional oversight, individuals attempting EMDR alone may fail to address their trauma adequately or even cause additional harm.

Consequences of Unsuitable Treatment

There are a number of potential consequences when individuals engage in self-administered EMDR without proper guidance, including:

Worsening of Symptoms

Attempting to process traumatic memories without professional support can lead to increased emotional distress and worsening of symptoms.


Improper handling of traumatic memories could cause the individual to relive the trauma, leaving them feeling retraumatized and potentially exacerbating symptoms.

Creation of False Memories

Untrained individuals may inadvertently create false memories or alter existing memories, which can be detrimental to their mental health and recovery.

Alternatives to Self-Administered EMDR

If you are considering EMDR as a therapeutic option, it is crucial to seek professional guidance rather than attempting to administer the treatment yourself. Here are a few alternatives to self-administered EMDR:

Seek Professional Help

Consult with a mental health professional experienced in EMDR to discuss your concerns and evaluate whether the therapy is appropriate for you. Engaging in EMDR with a trained and certified therapist will ensure a safe and effective treatment process.

Try Other Evidence-Based Therapies

If EMDR is not an option, explore other evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to address your psychological needs.

Join a Support Group

Support groups for individuals dealing with trauma or PTSD can provide a valuable space to share experiences and develop coping mechanisms. These groups can also connect you with professionals and resources to aid in your recovery.

Practice Self-Care Techniques

While not a substitute for professional help, incorporating self-care practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help manage symptoms and alleviate stress.


EMDR has the potential to be an effective treatment for trauma-related conditions when administered by a qualified professional. However, attempting to self-administer EMDR without proper training and supervision can result in serious consequences such as worsening symptoms, retraumatization, and the creation of false memories. It is essential to seek professional help and explore other evidence-based therapies to address psychological distress and promote healing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I try EMDR by myself with the help of a book or online resource?

Attempting EMDR without the supervision of a trained professional is strongly discouraged due to the potential risks associated with improper administration. Consult with a mental health professional to discuss your concerns and evaluate whether EMDR is appropriate for your needs.

Is it possible to do EMDR over video or phone with a therapist?

Some therapists offer EMDR through telehealth platforms, allowing clients to access therapy remotely. It is important to discuss the suitability of this option with your therapist to determine if remote EMDR is appropriate for you.

How can I find a qualified EMDR therapist?

Consult professional organizations such as the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) or the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) to find a certified EMDR therapist in your area.

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