Can You Do EMDR and EFT at the Same Time?

Written By

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

Updated:

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), also known as tapping, are two popular therapies used to treat trauma, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

But is it possible or advisable to do them together at the same time?

An Overview of EMDR and EFT

EMDR involves making side-to-side eye movements while recalling traumatic memories.

The bilateral stimulation is believed to help process the traumatic memories and reduce their negative emotional impact.

EFT involves tapping on acupressure points along the body’s energy meridians while focusing on specific emotions or memories.

The tapping sends signals to the amygdala and other parts of the limbic system involved in processing emotions and trauma.

Key Differences Between the Therapies

EMDREFT
Uses eye movementsUses tapping motions
Focuses on memory processingFocuses on emotion processing
Done with a therapistCan be self-administered

Is it Possible to Combine EMDR and EFT?

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Given the differences between EMDR and EFT described above, is it possible to combine them and do both at the same time?

The consensus among experts seems to be no – it is not recommended to simultaneously do the bilateral stimulation of EMDR and the tapping of EFT.

There are several reasons why combining both therapies simultaneously could be problematic:

Too Much Stimulation

Doing both eye movements AND tapping at the same time may provide too much bilateral stimulation to the brain. This risks being overwhelming or activating versus therapeutic.

Different Processing

EMDR targets memory networks while EFT targets emotions. Trying to process both simultaneously could disrupt efficacy.

Need Different Mindsets

EMDR requires disconnecting from emotions while EFT requires connecting to them. The incompatible mindsets required could interfere with benefits.

Lack of Research

There are no studies examining outcomes of simultaneous EMDR and EFT. Without research, it’s unknown if benefits would emerge or risks could occur.

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Is Alternating Between EMDR and EFT an Option?

Rather than combine EMDR and EFT simultaneously, some clinicians alternate between EMDR and EFT across or even within sessions.

For example:

  • EMDR may be used to process a traumatic memory
  • EFT could then tap to relieve residual emotional turmoil

Or a session could start with EMDR, transition to EFT halfway through, then go back to EMDR before closing.

This alternating approach could allow for the integration of the benefits of both modalities since they are not truly being done at the exact same time. However, more research is still needed in this area.

An Integrative Approach May Be Best

Given lack of data on outcomes for combined or alternating EMDR/EFT, an integrative approach may be safest:

EMDR for Memory Processing

Use EMDR as intended to target traumatic memories and history.

EFT for Emotional Regulation

Then use EFT to help relieve any emotional distress that lingers.

This sequential approach allows each therapy to work best within in its primary sphere – memory or emotion – for an overall robust treatment plan.

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Key Takeaways: EMDR and EFT Together?

  • Simultaneous bilateral stimulation from EMDR and tapping of EFT is not recommended
  • Risks include too much stimulation and incompatible processing
  • Alternating therapies across or within sessions is possible but lacks research
  • An integrative sequence targeting memory then emotion may be most effective

The potential for combined EMDR/EFT merits further study. But until more data emerges, be cautious about pairing them simultaneously in practice.

Conclusion

In summary, while EMDR and EFT share similarities as tapping/bilateral stimulation therapies for trauma/emotions, bilateral stimulation from both done at the exact same time is not advisable based on potential risks and lacking research data.

Alternating judiciously across or even within sessions, or using the modalities in sequence targeting memory then emotion processing, may allow integrating benefits pending further study.

Consult a trained professional to explore customized integration.

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About the author

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

As a physician and cardiologist, my training encompassed a comprehensive range of invasive and noninvasive procedures, providing extensive hands-on experience in echocardiography, cardiac stress testing, diagnostic catheterization, and coronary interventions. In addition, I developed skills in psychological assessments and formulating detailed case reports. This multifaceted training has equipped me with a strong foundation across cardiology, psychological studies, and documentation to support my medical research. I am passionate about medical writing and exchanging knowledge to help the global community. Social

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