EMDR for Depression

How EMDR for depression, resulting from trauma or prolonged stress, works. Cost of EMDR and whether EMDR for depression is effective.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on reprocessing the events of a past trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or a serious accident. Past trauma may be related to depression, so some believe EMDR for depression may be effective.

People who have experienced prolonged stress might also find relief using EMDR for their depression. EMDR has been found effective for treatment of long-lasting stress that may be causing depression.This stress may result from such things as growing up with alcoholism or in poverty, or living with mental illness in the family.

EMDR therapy combines multiple techniques from other therapies like:

  • Cognitive
  • Psychodynamic (talk therapy)
  • Interpersonal
  • Experiential

EMDR adds physical stimulation to these techniques, typically the movement of the eyes, although other movements can also be used.

How Does EMDR for Depression Work?

EMDR uses a clearly-outlined multi-phased approach involving:

  • Discussion of history / current issues
  • Creating trust and a safe space
  • Focus on the traumatic memory including eye movement and sensation awareness (processing)
  • Support and reevaluation

During the processing phase of EMDR therapy, the patient focuses on the traumatic memory for 15-30 seconds while initiating eye movement. After the 30 second interval, the patient talks about how they felt during the interval. These new feelings become the target of the next 15-30 second interval. This process is then repeated many times.

Francine Shapiro, who developed the technique, has stated it works by changing the neurological and physiological associations with the memory, allowing the memory to be processed. Others, however, believe the eye-movement is non-therapeutic and EMDR is an example of desensitization.

Cost of EMDR for Depression

EMDR is typically used in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder but some practitioners use EMDR for treatment of depression as well.

The number of sessions required to process a traumatic memory varies from three sessions for simple, single traumatic memories to many more for complex trauma. Cost of EMDR varies but can be around $100 / hour with one-and-a-half hours being a common session time.

More information can be found at the EMDR International Association web site:


Wikipedia, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing:

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2022, January 4). EMDR for Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: January 11, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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