How Long Does it Take for EMDR to Work?

Person standing while holding a baby in their arms and holding the hand of a toddler while they overlook mountains and water. Pic by Josh Willink from

Soft Hearts, eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is totally supposed to be a faster model than the old school talk therapy. No longer do we have to be old White dudes chatting about your mother. With that being said, EMDR can still take years for some people. I’ve seen some folks move their trauma to a place of ZERO distress in just a couple of hours, whereas for several folks it takes a number of weeks or months of working at this stuff. One of the best ways I can tell someone about the length to expect is to think of what the trauma links to and what they’re doing in between sessions.

I get that we want stuff to get better fast, and sometimes there’s more stuff linked to it or $hit comes up in between sessions that makes recovery tougher and bumper than we’d hoped for.


So when I say consider what your trauma links to I mean that if you’re working with me at an EMDR Intensive Retreat on a car accident, but it really links back to the car accident AND being neglected as a child then there’s more to this than a single experience. Single incident trauma may be less complicated for some than if there were several incidents across a lifetime. The hard part is that most people don’t know what their anxiety, hopelessness or sense of unfairness links back to until we get in there and I help them through when the first time they felt that sense of hopelessness or unfairness. Therefore, we really can’t tell if it will take a couple of hours or a couple of years to access and reduce your anxiety, depression, grief or trauma through EMDR.

In Between Sessions

If you’re being retraumatized in between sessions by an abusive boss or some triggering experience then it might not be as conducive to your mental health recovery as if you felt securely and stably supported. There are things that you’ll learn with your EMDR therapist that can help you. We work on containment, relaxation, and self soothing that helps people during and in between sessions. If you can practice your resources by doing inner work like journaling, slow deep breaths, or contacting a supportive friend then when stuff comes up and you feel distressed you’ll be able to lean into what you’ve been practicing. Practicing your resources on a daily basis, even for a couple of minutes, makes a world of difference for my clients.

There are a number of factors that can give you an idea of how long it will take. Whether you’re about to have a baby or just really in need of distress around your panic I hope however long it takes that the journey to getting to where you want is fruitful too. I hope your inner child and you as a whole can feel as proud of you as I do for even trying to address this stuff.

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