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Ty Evind

Is EMDR Hypnosis? Connections and Differences Between These Powerful Therapies

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and hypnosis are two therapeutic techniques that, while seemingly quite different on the surface, share some interesting similarities as well as key differences. In this in-depth explainer, we'll analyze the core principles of each approach, compare and contrast how they work, and provide insight into how both can be used to effectively treat trauma when applied by a skilled therapist.

Table of Contents:

  1. Understanding EMDR Therapy: A Brief Background

  2. What Is Hypnosis Therapy?

  3. Key Differences Between EMDR and Hypnosis

  4. Similarities Between EMDR and Hypnosis

  5. Using EMDR and Hypnosis Together in Trauma Therapy

  6. Achieving Effective Results Through Expert Practice

  7. Key Takeaways: Is EMDR Hypnosis?

is emdr hypnosis

Understanding EMDR Therapy: A Brief Background

First developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR seeks to help clients process and resolve distressing memories that contribute to conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. It involves making back-and-forth eye movements while recalling traumatic events, which is believed to stimulate information processing in the brain and facilitate adaptive change.

Some key facts about EMDR:

  • Uses bilateral stimulation like eye movements, taps, or sounds to activate the brain's information processing systems.

  • Aims to reprocess dysfunctional memories that underlie various disorders and complaints.

  • Eight standardized phases guide clients through accessing target memories, desensitization, cognitive reframing, and evaluation.

  • Requires extensive therapist training to be certified in delivering EMDR therapy.

  • Shown to be very effective for treating PTSD and trauma-based conditions.

While the exact neurological mechanisms are still being researched, studies indicate that the bilateral stimulation of EMDR triggers an intense memory processing mode that allows dysfunctional information to be rapidly integrated in a more adaptive way.

Phases of EMDR Treatment

Phases of EMDR Treatment

In an EMDR session, the therapist will guide the client through 8 phases of treatment:

  1. History taking and treatment planning

  2. Preparation - teaching stress management techniques

  3. Assessment - identifying target memories

  4. Desensitization - processing memories while using bilateral stimulation

  5. Installation - linking positive cognition to the memory

  6. Body scan - identifying any residual tension

  7. Closure - using calming techniques at end of session

  8. Reevaluation - assessing effects at next session

This sequence allows the trauma to be systematically worked through and resolved. EMDR typically takes place over 6-12 sessions.

What Is Hypnosis Therapy?

What Is Hypnosis Therapy?

Hypnosis is a guided, trance-like state of heightened focus and concentration achieved by a trained hypnotist. It bypasses the critical factor of the conscious mind and allows for positive suggestions and visualization to reframe beliefs and instill desired change.

Key characteristics of hypnosis:

  • State of relaxed concentration and increased suggestibility

  • Therapist uses voice, language patterns and mental imagery

  • Allows unconscious mind to be more accessible

  • Can treat issues like anxiety, pain, habits, and performance

  • Requires extensive training to effectively and safely guide clients

A hypnotic trance lets therapists implant therapeutic suggestions to activate the client's own inner resources and resilience. This can rapidly change patterns, perspectives, and behaviors.

Techniques Used in Hypnotherapy

Techniques Used in Hypnotherapy

Hypnotists employ a range of techniques like:

  • Progressive relaxation and guided imagery

  • Metaphors and stories that convey messages

  • Age regression to reframe past events

  • Ideomotor signaling to answer questions

  • Post-hypnotic suggestion for changes after the trance

  • Cognitive reframing of irrational thoughts or beliefs

These methods allow the hypnotist to shape the content and messages delivered to the unconscious mind during hypnosis. This facilitates desired transformations aligned to the therapeutic goals.

Key Differences Between EMDR and Hypnosis

Key Differences Between EMDR and Hypnosis

While both EMDR and hypnosis harness altered mind-body states for transformative purposes, there are some clear differences between these modalities:

  • EMDR uses external bilateral stimulation while hypnosis relies on voice and communication patterns.

  • EMDR focuses on processing memories while hypnosis installs suggestions for change.

  • The client is fully aware during EMDR but in a trance state during hypnosis.

  • EMDR targets specific disturbing memories while hypnosis can be more wide-ranging.

  • EMDR requires standardized training while hypnotherapy has various schools of practice.

  • EMDR reduces distress of past events while hypnosis aims to elicit solutions for present issues.

So while the two have some overlap, they utilize distinct mechanisms and approaches tailored to different therapeutic objectives.

Similarities Between EMDR and Hypnosis

Similarities Between EMDR and Hypnosis

Despite their differences, EMDR and hypnosis share the following core commonalities:

  • Both access non-ordinary states of consciousness and awareness.

  • Each facilitates mind-body communication and processing.

  • They allow external guidance to shape internal experience.

  • Imagery, visualization and memory are leveraged for change.

  • The techniques require advanced therapist skills and training.

  • Clinical results rely heavily on the client-therapist relationship.

  • Treatment needs to be adapted case-by-case based on assessments.

So while the modalities have distinct attributes, philosophies, and protocols, they converge around these core principles for influencing psychological experiences in a transformative way.

Using EMDR and Hypnosis Together in Trauma Therapy

Using EMDR and Hypnosis Together in Trauma Therapy

In the hands of an experienced dually-trained practitioner, EMDR and hypnosis can be combined synergistically to enhance trauma treatment outcomes. Examples of integrated approaches include:

  • Using hypnosis for stabilization and symptom management prior to reprocessing memories with EMDR.

  • Employing hypnotic techniques within certain EMDR phases to deepen relaxation and cognitive change.

  • Leveraging post-hypnotic suggestion after EMDR to reinforce desired treatment effects.

  • Guiding hypnotic age regression when EMDR reaches an impasse with a blocked memory.

  • Incorporating ideomotor signaling into bilateral stimulation phases of EMDR.

  • Drawing upon hypnotic metaphors and stories to enhance EMDR target memory reprocessing.

So while EMDR and hypnosis have differences, in the right clinical context they can complement each other quite powerfully for resolving trauma-based disorders.

Achieving Effective Results with EMDR

Achieving Effective Results Through Expert Practice

In reviewing EMDR and hypnosis, it is clear both offer tremendous tools for therapists seeking to help clients overcome trauma, anxiety, habits, pain, performance issues and more. However, realizing the full benefits of these modalities requires extensive, rigorous training and supervised experience.

Much like learning to play a musical instrument, truly mastering the art and science of EMDR or clinical hypnosis takes great determination and creativity combined with many hours of hands-on practice under an expert teacher. But the reward is acquiring skills to enact profound healing and change.

For those feeling drawn to experience EMDR or hypnosis on their journey toward wholeness, take the time to seek out the most gifted, ethically grounded therapists you can find. Their expertise, compassion and care will make all the difference in unlocking your inner strengths, resources and potential through these powerful approaches.

emdr hypnosis

Key Takeaways: Is EMDR Hypnosis?




Uses bilateral stimulation to process disturbing memories

Guided trance state used to deliver therapeutic suggestions

Techniques Used

Eye movements, taps, sounds

Relaxation, imagery, metaphors, reframing

Primary Aims

Processing past memories and trauma

Instilling desired changes in present issues

Client State

Fully aware

Hypnotic trance


Specific disturbing memories

Wide range of current issues

Training Required

Standardized EMDR certification

Various schools and approaches


Adaptive reprocessing of dysfunction

Implanting solutions and perspective

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