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EMDR Therapy and Recurring Nightmares: What to expect from a NY EMDR Therapist

Updated: May 6

person sleeping with green blanket

Are recurring nightmares and a history of trauma affecting the quality of your sleep?

Recurring nightmares can be deeply distressing, affecting sleep quality, daily functioning, and overall well-being. For those grappling with these persistent and often vivid dreams, relief may seem elusive. However, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy offers a promising avenue for individuals seeking to address and alleviate the distress caused by recurrent nightmares.

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that was initially developed to treat trauma-related conditions. It has since been adapted and proven effective for various mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and, notably, nightmares. EMDR integrates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and bilateral stimulation to facilitate healing.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work for Nightmares?

The underlying principle of EMDR therapy is to help individuals process distressing memories or experiences that contribute to psychological distress. When applied to recurring nightmares, EMDR aims to identify and reprocess the traumatic elements embedded within the dreams, ultimately reducing their frequency and intensity.

During an EMDR therapy session targeting nightmares, the therapist guides the individual through a structured protocol. This typically involves the following steps:

1. Assessment and Preparation: The therapist collaborates with the individual to identify the specific nightmares and associated distressing memories or experiences. They also establish coping skills to manage emotional arousal during the therapy process.

2. Desensitization: Using bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, hand taps, or auditory cues, the therapist helps the individual reprocess the traumatic material associated with the nightmares. This bilateral stimulation is thought to mimic the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase, facilitating the processing of distressing memories.

3. Installation: Positive beliefs or adaptive coping mechanisms are introduced and reinforced to replace negative cognitions or distressing emotions linked to the nightmares.

4. Body Scan: The individual is guided through a body scan to ensure that residual tension or distress has been adequately addressed.

5. Closure: The session concludes with a debriefing and relaxation exercise to promote emotional stabilization and integration of the therapeutic work.

Benefits of EMDR Therapy for Nightmares

- Reduction in Nightmare Frequency: Research has shown that EMDR therapy can lead to a significant decrease in the frequency and intensity of recurring nightmares.


- Improved Sleep Quality: By addressing the underlying trauma or distress, EMDR can promote better sleep quality and overall well-being.


- Enhanced Coping Skills: Individuals undergoing EMDR therapy often report improved coping skills and greater resilience in managing distressing emotions and memories.

Is EMDR Therapy Right for You?

If you are experiencing recurring nightmares that significantly impact your quality of life, EMDR therapy may offer a path toward relief. However, it's essential to consult with a qualified mental health professional who can assess your individual needs and determine whether EMDR therapy is an appropriate treatment option.

Remember, healing takes time, and EMDR therapy is just one tool in the therapeutic toolkit. With patience, commitment, and the guidance of a skilled therapist, it is possible to find relief from recurring nightmares and reclaim a sense of peace and well-being.


About the Author, an EMDR Therapist in Scarsdale, NY

briana collins emdr therapist in scarsdale ny

Briana Collins is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and EMDR trained therapist at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling in Scarsdale, NY.


Briana is passionate about helping teenagers and women struggling with anxiety, life transitions, chronic pain & chronic illness, ADHD, gender identity and PTSD.

As an experienced trauma therapist, she has a special place in her heart for working with those in the LGBTQIA+ community.


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