Dangers of EMDR

Is EMDR therapy Dangerous?

Thanks to EMDR, I’ve helped many people transform their lives. EMDR is a very powerful treatment. It’s effective and oftentimes it works faster than talk-therapy. But EMDR always has to be practiced with safety. Never forget about the potential dangers of EMDR therapy.

Make sure your EMDR treatment is safe

First, make sure you choose a competent, EMDRIA-trained therapist. This is not the kind of therapy you learn by watching online videos. The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) was founded after some therapists tried their own version of EMDR. In its early days, after EMDR was introduced to therapists, some clinicians decided to teach their colleagues how this powerful therapy works.

Therapists who were trained by their clients caused harm to their clients. 

The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) has a very specific training program. They make sure therapists pay special attention to the potential dangers before they start reprocessing with EMDR therapy.

An EMDRIA trained therapist should recognize any red flags before they start your EMDR processing. They should recognize when you’re not ready to move forward with reprocessing.

Let me make it clear. EMDR therapy, when done by a competent therapist, is not dangerous. The dangers of EMDR therapy can be a result of not paying attention to safety factors.

Here are 5 things you and your therapist should pay attention to before starting your EMDR work.

5 Signs you are NOT ready start EMDR reprocessing

Lack of internal resources

If you don’t have enough internal resources to cope with intense psychological material – your brain will get flooded and you will get overwhelmed. Your therapist will work with you on improving your coping skills. These skills will help you cope better with deep emotions, like shame.

If you have any thoughts about hurting yourself or another person, you should mention them to your therapist. EMDR processing can be very intense, and if you have some suicidal or homicidal thoughts, these thoughts may increase in both frequency and intensity.

Suicidal or homicidal thoughts

Domestic violence

If you’re in a domestic violence situation, do not start EMDR processing. First, seek safety and stability. Make sure you are in a safe and stable environment before you start the processing phase of your EMDR therapy.

If can’t take care of your basic needs – you are not in a place to start EMDR reprocessing. In my work with vulnerable populations, I always take these factors into consideration. If my client is not sure if she is going to be able to pay rent next month, we’re not going to start EMDR processing. If your life feels unstable – mention it to your therapist.

Basic needs


If you suffer from any form of dissociation – make sure you mention it to your therapist. Some therapists, who are well trained in EMDR, as well as other therapeutic modalities, (Ego-State Therapy or Internal Family Systems), can work with dissociated clients. Dissociation is a very strong defense mechanism and needs to be treated by a competent therapist. If you’ve experienced dissociation – an experienced therapist can help you tremendously. Ask your therapist about his or her experience working with dissociated clients.