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EMDR for Phobias

A phobia is an irrational fear of something that brings about intense feelings of distress when subjected to, or thinking about, the phobia. Examples include a fear of spiders, open water, getting blood drawn, etc.

Is EMDR an Effective Treatment for Phobias? 

Phobias fall under the umbrella of anxiety and are a severe anxiety reaction to a particular stimulus. As EMDR is an effective treatment for anxiety, it is also a very effective treatment for phobias. Most phobias can be resolved within a few sessions but the length of time for treatment is often dependent on how severe the phobia is.

How Is EMDR Therapy Used to Help Treat Phobias and Fears

EMDR follows the same format in treating phobias as it does with other clinical diagnosis but with some slight differences. While other diagnosis focus heavily on changing belief systems, phobias can be worked through in the same way or a slightly different way. If we can identify a belief that is causing the fear response then EMDR continues as normal and works on changing the problematic belief. If no belief can be determined, we use EMDR on the general concept behind the phobia itself until the phobia is no longer distressing. 

For example, Andrew comes in with a fear of flying and wants to do EMDR to treat it. If the client has an identifiable belief about why flying scares them, then the belief would be targeted with EMDR. If Andrew fears flying becomes he believes he is going to die, then the belief "I'm going to die" would be the most effective way to change his phobia with EMDR. If no belief can be identified, then EMDR will target the concept "flying" or "fear of flying" until the concept is no longer disturbing.

Phobias That Can Be Treated Using EMDR Therapy

Some of the common types treated using EMDR therapy include:


  • Animal phobias such as a fear of spiders, birds, horses, etc. 

  • Environmental fears such as a fear of heights, open water, etc.

  • Situational fears such as a fear of small spaces, elevators, crowds, etc.

  • Injury fears such as a fear of doctors, dentists, needles, etc.

  • Other fears such as a fear of vomiting, blood, sounds, etc.

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