In this episode of PTSD Bytes, we learn about EMDR for PTSD from licensed clinical social worker and certified EMDR-therapist Marianne Silva.

Listen to “#8: Treatments for PTSD 5: EMDR” on Spreaker.

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is a type of therapy used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During this treatment, you may look at something that moves back and forth or listen to tones go back and forth in either ear while you think of a specific trauma.

As you do this repeatedly, you will notice that the way you feel about the memory starts to shift. Often, the memory will feel less distressing or painful. We do not know exactly how this back-and-forth movement or sound helps to process the trauma memory but research shows that EMDR is one of the most effective treatments for PTSD.


What can you expect?

At the beginning, your therapist will ask you about your history and symptoms. You’ll then work together to develop your coping skills, so you’re prepared to focus on the painful memories. You’ll decide together with your therapist which trauma memory you would like to focus on first.

When processing a memory, you will hold it in your mind – including related physical and emotional feelings – while also paying attention to the back-and-forth movement or sound. You’ll do this for about 30-60 seconds. Then you’ll talk about what you noticed. You do not need to talk about the trauma itself in detail. Your therapist will make sure you stay within the right comfort zone, so you don’t become overwhelmed.

You will repeat this process until eventually you’re able to think of the trauma without feeling distressed or anxious. Then you and your therapist will decide together if you will focus on other memories. Sessions may last 60-90 minutes. On average, people see improvements within three months of weekly treatment.

The free mobile app PTSD Coach has tools that can support the work you’re doing. For example, coping techniques such as breathing or guided imagery tools can be used both during and between sessions. You can also create your own tools in PTSD Coach, such as adding a video, photo, or text specifically adapted for your EMDR work.

How can you get EMDR therapy?

If you receive VA care, ask your primary care or mental health provider if EMDR is available at your location. Outside of VA, you can search the EMDR International Association directory at for EMDR-trained therapists around the world.

Not sure if EMDR is right for you? Check out the PTSD Treatment Decision Aid and discuss with your health care provider.

Additional links

If you are a Veteran who is experiencing a crisis or supporting a loved one who is, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for immediate assistance, or chat online at

By Andrea L. Jamison is a clinical psychologist with the National Center for PTSD.

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Published on May. 3, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 98


  1. Jeffrey L. Frusha May 11, 2022 at 9:07 pm

    I am receiving therapy for non-combat related PTSD (Cold War Era). My therapist is outside of the VA and her partner has EMDR training. All I can say is, to my knowledge, I have not had the nightmares invoked by my experience since EMDR therapy.

    It is NOT a ‘cure-all’. I still have all of the life-long habits associated with my PTSD, but, I’m not having the nightmares. I am still very, if no longer hypervigilant. My sleep ‘schedule’ is still as screwy as ever.

  2. Steven Wright May 9, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    I was medically retired from the USN. Two weeks before I got out I received a denial letter from the Command. Lt Commander Johnson denied it. I was going through DTAP. Disabled Transitional Assistant Program. I was assigned a DAV rep who helped me fill out the VA forms. LTCMD Johnson purposely took my records against my objections. He went into the next room and destroyed them (or?). He said I quote “If you had a gun would you shoot me!” Laughing at me. He said good luck getting benefits when you get out! What was I supposed to do? I was a petty officer that was labeled with mental health issues after getting tons of different drugs from him. If I struck him or retaliated I would have gotten a dishonorable. I complained to everyone at my command tried to put in complaints NONE were processed before I left. They claimed the command being decommissioned was the reason!? How many Veterans have endured similar abuse?
    After getting out the DAV transferred my case to a case manager in (West?) Covina. He said he’s never seen a case like mine. The VA wouldn’t even accept communications from him claiming I never served and without records there was nothing they could do. I was denied by the VA as not even being in the service. Congressmen Buck McKeon resolved that. They said without records they couldn’t assign me a rating. DAV rep said everyone else in the program was accepted and got benefits. He couldn’t believe what happened. I applied several times over the years always denied. Why should I have to provide the records when the military officer purposely destroyed them? Why couldn’t they the VA contact people still in service at the time? Why couldn’t VA get documentation from previous commands and medical centers. Balboa, 32nd str Wet side and Dry side, RTC, NTC, USS Reid, NTCC, NTCS? So I was retired never got dental (Navy promised the VA takes care of that knowing they don’t!) or benefits other than lifetime medical. Yes I have lifetime medical from the VA. The irony. Fibromylagia I have many of the symptoms and have complained since sservice.My Mother comes across old copies she forgot she had (received from?) My Uncle dies with the same name as me. Records start popping up, proving my claims dating all the way back to 97. I am on a VA PENSION for those exact symptoms and problems but they say are not military related! Why haven’t I received benefits and backpay from leaving the service in late 1999? What is the hold up? Why am I not being compensated? How many more hoops do I need to jump through? My children need help and I am not in a position to help. The backpay alone would buy me a house, land, vehicle (Currently Homeless with no car typing on a cracked screen on my phone) and hopefully help me start a business so I could provide for my children! I have endured an American Nightmare instead of an American Dream! ANYONE AT ALL THAT CAN HELP? The VA just screws with me. I am the governments play thing. I have documentation to prove my claims.

    (Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information) Combat Veteran, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Expert Shooter Pistol

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