When comparing different treatment approaches, it doesn’t have to be a contest. We don’t need a “winner,” per se. The goal is to inform readers in a way that can guide them to make the best choices for themselves. For example, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and hypnosis (hypnotherapy) may appear similar on the surface. This can lead to comparisons.

In both approaches, specially trained therapists guide clients into states that are conducive to discovery and healing. From there, however, EMDR and hypnosis take different paths. Of course, each client and each therapist will bring their unique characteristics to the process. So, with all that in mind, let’s explore the key differences.

EMDR vs. Hypnosis: Understanding the Key Differences

The Basics

woman in emdr therapyAt its roots, clinical hypnosis is a healing approach that uses tools like breathing exercises, guided imagery and suggestion. These tools can help clients process their thoughts, emotions, and suggestibility. In addition, hypnosis can make it easier to recognize counterproductive patterns and their underlying causes.

Meanwhile, EMDR is a form of psychotherapy originally designed for trauma survivors. It grew out of other forms of therapy, e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and it has grown to be used for a wide range of mental health concerns. Where it might look to outsiders like hypnosis is that it uses bilateral stimulation to induce a state in which negative memories and issues can be resolved with the client getting triggered.

Addressing Goals

While every case is different, it’s most frequently true that EMDR is used to address more goals in one session than hypnosis. Hypnotherapy can be quite helpful when aimed at a single goal. EMDR, on the other hand, has a singular focus on the surface while simultaneously processing many related and root issues. A fine example of this is EMDR’s stellar record with trauma survivors.

Speaking of Trauma…

Clinical hypnosis can be a helpful option for trauma treatment, but there are a limited number of clinicians who use hypnosis to treat it. EMDR is far more common and many consider it to be the standard-bearing choice. If you think that perhaps your traumatic experiences have resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), then, it’s important to seek trauma treatment under the care of a specialist. P psychotherapy is the preferred starting point, as self help and alternative methods run the risk of making matters worse.

Internal and External Healing

During an actual session, hypnosis tends to concentrate on healing that happens within. An EMDR session also offers internal relief by the bilateral stimulation (hand and finger movements, tapping, etc.) is very external. You might say EMDR allows a client to straddle both their internal and external worlds.

Number of Sessions

People may work with a hypnotherapist for a couple of sessions, again, with a single, specific goal in mind. EMDR follows a more particular and longer protocol. There is a lot of misundertanding and misinformation that states that EMDR therapy runs for about 12 sessions.  While there are occasions when EMDR therapy is a short term treatment, that’s not the case for most people. As a result, overall costs are typically higher for EMDR than for hypnosis.

Other Factors

At the end of the day, it’s up to the client to gather information about treament choices and recommendation and then decide what feels right for them. Whatever they ultimately choose should be based on a blend of experience and homework. Learn as much as you can and, if possible, try them both out.

For example, if you feel you have one identifiable issue — and cost is a concern — you might start out with hypnosis. If that is the case, it’s important to do your best to find a licensed mental health care provider. Much hypnosis is practiced by people with no mental health licensing and credentialing.  Those folks who express wariness about seeking treatment from an unlicnesed hypnotist will  may lean toward EMDR therapy. That’s because only licensed clinicians can get training in conducting EMDR.  EMDR can be more amendable to online sessions, these could be deciding factors.

What Are the First Steps?

Pondering these two treatment options is an ideal opportunity to practice maintaining an open mind. Every situation is different so there’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint. This is when the aforementioned homework comes in handy. Do some self-education, gather your evidence, and then reach out to a qualified mental health professional who will help you choose your path.