Perhaps you’ve been struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or another mental health condition. You’re thinking about working with a therapist, but you’re not sure which type of treatment is best for you.

You may have heard about a few different common treatment approaches, like cognitive-behavioral therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Yet you’re not sure what these forms of treatment really entail.

CBT and EMDR are two popular treatment modalities that can benefit people dealing with many mental health conditions. But if you’re not familiar with these terms, you may not know how they differ. Here’s what distinguishes CBT and EMDR.

What Each Modality Treats

Overall, therapists use both CBT and EMDR to address several conditions, and both approaches can be used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. In fact, some people might benefit from a treatment plan that integrates both!

However, CBT is typically used to identify, break down, and rewrite the negative beliefs and thought patterns associated with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, and depression. On the other hand, EMDR is generally applied to help people process past traumatic events and heal from PTSD.

Emphasis on Talk Therapy

CBT goes hand-in-hand with talk therapy. Someone who is using CBT will spend lots of time talking to their therapist about their personal history, the experiences that may have contributed to their symptoms, and the beliefs they struggle with today.

But in EMDR sessions, clients do not have to share much about themselves or their trauma. While the therapist will still want to get a general idea of the client’s history, the fact that EMDR involves minimal talk therapy is a huge part of this treatment’s appeal. Clients do not have to risk feeling re-traumatized by talking about their past.

Verbal vs. Physical Processing

EMDR involves physically processing trauma that has been stored in the body. An EMDR therapist uses bilateral stimulation, such as finger motions or tapping, to guide their client’s eye movements while the client identifies where they still feel lingering tension in their body.

CBT therapy places a stronger emphasis on verbal and cognitive processing. Clients will have to analyze their own belief systems and work through the roots of these thought patterns out loud with guidance and input from their therapist.

Length of Treatment

When you’re working with CBT, there is no set number of stages or sessions that you will go through. EMDR therapy is structured differently: clients might attend anywhere from six to twelve sessions over several weeks while going through eight specific stages of the therapeutic process.

It’s important to note that this does not mean that people who pursue EMDR therapy will be rushed through the process. They can work with a therapist for as long as they need.

Time Investment Outside of Sessions

Clients going through EMDR generally don’t have much “homework” to do outside of sessions. Their therapist will always recommend self-soothing techniques, and you might want to do some journaling on your own time. But for the most part, you’ll do your inner work during sessions.

CBT usually involves lots of homework outside of therapy sessions. This can be very helpful for clients, but it also takes time. Therefore, the amount of time you have to dedicate to inner work outside of sessions might be a consideration for some people as they look into therapy.

Are you curious about whether CBT or EMDR would work best for you? A therapist can help you learn more about these treatment approaches. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.

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