How to use EMDR to treat Coronavirus Anxiety (COVID-19)

Updated: May 23, 2020

There have been a lot of inquiries and questions about how to best respond to coronavirus anxiety with EMDR. The information from EMDRIA and from the humanitarian assistance program (HAP) is that EMD (restricted processing) is the way to go.

EMD stands for Eye Movement Desensitization, without the R (Reprocessing). EMD is restricted processing that is used to desensitize an emotionally charged memory or feeling.

EMD differs from EMDR because, with EMD, we are restricting the processing by continuously bringing the client back to target and assessing the SUD (subjective units of disturbance) after each set of bilateral stimulation (BLS). Bilateral stimulation is also referred to as DAS (Dual Attention Stimulus).

It is important, when using EMD, to still go through phases 1 (history taking) and 2 (resourcing), as you would with any other EMDR target assessment setup. As an EMDR therapist, you want to assess how the client's anxiety is impacting their day-to-day functioning. You also want to establish resources for the client. This may include: the container, a calm place, breath work, and any type of resource that helps the client feel grounded and safe.

After history taking and resourcing is established, you can proceed to phase 3 of EMD: target assessment. The target assessment for EMD varies a bit from EMDR. With EMD, you are not incorporating the affective and somatic elements into the target assessment. This is because we do not want to activate older traumas. Rather, we want to stay present with the current anxiety and desensitize as much as possible.

How to use EMD