Depression was already one of the world’s most common mental health conditions. In light of the events of the past two-plus years, it has increased by as much as 25 percent. Obviously, effective treatment options for depression are more important than ever. That’s where Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) comes in. But, does EMDR help with depression?

One of the hallmarks of depression is how negative thoughts and beliefs can trigger it. Hence, it’s clear why this successful modality has become widely used for depression.

EMDR Basics

Unlike traditional talk therapy, EMDR involves finger, hand, and eye movements to induce a state similar to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. In this state, the client can safely process negative or traumatic memories and replace them with something positive. The EMDR process takes place over these eight steps:

  • Client History: This is when the client, with the help of the therapist, chooses which thoughts and beliefs to target.
  • Preparation: The client has the EMDR experience fully explained to them.
  • Assessment: It’s time to assess and evaluate the targeted beliefs and memories before moving forward.
  • Desensitization: Here’s where the eye movements come into play (see more below).
  • Installation: Swapping out the negative thought patterns for a positive, self-loving memory.
  • Body Scan: Using the bilateral stimulation to make all physiological symptoms have been cleared.
  • Closure: Easing the client back to a normal state.
  • Re-evaluation: Chat and check that the memories have been fully processed.

EMDR had become a go-to treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and more recently has become an effective choice for people struggling with depression.

man sitting on couch by himself

Can EMDR Help with Depression?

This brings us back to the question in the title. The short answer is yes. But let’s delve deeper to offer some details.

Depression is frequently the result of bad experiences you’ve undergone, including traumatic events. Life experiences like this can hamper your resiliency and embed hurtful beliefs. You may feel powerless and misunderstood. As time passes, you can see yourself as unworthy of help.

  • Before the session, the client picks one issue to focus on. When dealing with depression, that issue could be a negative belief like, “It’s always my fault and everyone would be better off without me.”
  • Your EMDR therapist will begin using hand and finger movements as you follow these movements with your eyes.
  • In such a state, you can focus on something negative without being triggered by it. You might even find it liberating to focus on these thoughts without guilt or shame.
  • When self-sabotaging beliefs and patterns are resolved in this way, they can be replaced with a positive memory and/or belief.

Studies find that symptoms of depression are alleviated in just six to eight sessions. On top of that, clients regularly report a massive increase in their quality of life. The depressive disorder that dominated their life is suddenly no longer at the forefront of their mind — all thanks to EMDR.

Further analysis compared EMDR for depression to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for depression. While both reduced symptoms, EMDR induced nearly full remission — and it did so in fewer sessions. On top of that, people in the EMDR group rated their experience far more positively than those in the CBT group.

Studies as far back as 2006 support the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for depressive disorders.

EMDR Can Help with Depression

If you find yourself struggling with symptoms of depression, why not learn more about what EMDR can do to help you? I invite you to reach out for more information. I can help you get started on the path toward recovery and healing with EMDR Therapy.