As mental health becomes more mainstream, a wide range of services, therapies, and guidance are now available, 2 popular therapies are CBT and EMDR, in this post we ask the question “what is the difference between CBT and EMDR”.
However, with so many options to choose from, it can be daunting to figure out which therapy is best for you. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between CBT and EMDR to help you make an informed decision about which therapy may be right for you.
History of EMDR Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was developed in the 1960s by Aaron Beck and is a type of talk therapy that helps people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) was developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro and is a therapy technique that uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or tapping, to help people process traumatic memories.
Differences between EMDR Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
The following table outlines the differences between EMDR Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:
|Symptom/Disorder||EMDR Therapy||Cognitive Behavioural Therapy|
|PTSD||Used to treat PTSD by helping clients process traumatic memories and emotions||Used to treat PTSD by helping clients identify and change negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviours related to the trauma|
|Anxiety||Used to treat anxiety by helping clients identify and process negative thoughts and beliefs contributing to anxiety||Used to treat anxiety by helping clients identify and change negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviours related to anxiety|
|Depression||Used to treat depression by helping clients identify and process negative thoughts and beliefs contributing to depression||Used to treat depression by helping clients identify and change negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviours related to depression|
|Phobias||Used to treat phobias by helping clients desensitise to the phobia through exposure therapy and processing any underlying trauma||Used to treat phobias by helping clients identify and change negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviours related to the phobia|
|Addiction||Used to treat addiction by helping clients identify and process underlying traumatic experiences contributing to addiction||Used to treat addiction by helping clients identify and change negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviours related to addiction|
Length of Therapy and What to Look for
The length of therapy for both EMDR and CBT varies depending on the severity of the disorder, the client’s motivation, and their response to therapy.
EMDR therapy is typically shorter than CBT, with an average of 8-12 sessions compared to 16-20 sessions for CBT.
When seeking help with either therapy, it’s important to look for a licensed and trained therapist who has experience treating your specific mental health disorder.
Benefits of EMDR and CBT
Now we’ve outlined what is the difference between EMDR and CBT let’s look at he benefits of EMDR and CBT.
Both have been found to be effective in treating a range of mental health disorders, offering unique benefits;
EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating PTSD and trauma-related disorders. It helps individuals process their traumatic memories and reduces the emotional distress associated with them. Research has also found that EMDR can be effective in treating other mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and addiction.
CBT is a highly structured therapy that helps individuals identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to mental health disorders. It has been found to be effective in treating anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.
Both therapies offer a collaborative and supportive therapeutic environment. They can be adapted to meet the individual needs of each client and can be used in conjunction with other treatment modalities, such as medication.
EMDR and CBT have also been found to be effective for children.
Research has shown that EMDR can be used to treat children with PTSD and other trauma-related disorders. CBT can also be adapted for children and has been found to be effective in treating anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.
CBT and EMDR FAQs
What is EMDR therapy, and how does it work?
- EMDR therapy is a form of psychotherapy designed to help individuals process and heal from traumatic experiences. It involves a structured eight-phase approach, during which the therapist uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or tactile cues, to help the patient reprocess distressing memories. The goal is to reduce the emotional impact of traumatic memories and promote psychological healing.
What conditions or issues can EMDR therapy effectively treat?
- EMDR therapy is primarily used to treat conditions related to trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has also been found effective in addressing other issues like anxiety, depression, and phobias. It can be used for a wide range of psychological distress related to past experiences.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and how does it differ from EMDR?
- CBT is a talk therapy approach that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It aims to help individuals recognise and modify unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their emotional distress. Unlike EMDR, CBT does not rely on reprocessing traumatic memories through bilateral stimulation.
Which therapy should I choose: EMDR or CBT?
- The choice between EMDR and CBT depends on your specific needs and the nature of the issues you’re facing. If you have a history of trauma or are dealing with PTSD, EMDR may be a suitable choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking to address more general mental health concerns and work on changing thought and behavior patterns, CBT may be a better fit. It’s often best to consult with a mental health professional to determine the most appropriate therapy for your situation.
Are EMDR and CBT typically used together?
- While EMDR and CBT are distinct therapeutic approaches, some therapists may integrate elements of both into a treatment plan, depending on the individual’s needs. For example, CBT techniques might be used to address cognitive distortions while EMDR focuses on reprocessing traumatic memories. However, this decision is made on a case-by-case basis, and not all therapy sessions will combine both approaches.
Research Comparing EMDR and CBT
Research has compared the effectiveness of EMDR and CBT for various mental health disorders. A meta-analysis of 26 studies found that EMDR and CBT were equally effective in treating PTSD (Bisson et al., 2013). Another study found that EMDR and CBT were equally effective in treating anxiety disorders (McEvoy et al., 2016). However, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these therapies for other mental health disorders.
Overall, both EMDR and CBT are evidence-based therapies that can be effective in treating a range of mental health disorders. When seeking treatment, it’s important to work with a licensed and trained therapist who can help determine which therapy is best suited for your individual needs.
Reference: Bisson, J. I., Roberts, N. P., Andrew, M., Cooper, R., & Lewis, C. (2013). Psychological therapies for chronic post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (12). McEvoy, P. M., Nathan, P., Norton, P. J., & Eftekhari, A. (2016). Cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing for panic disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of anxiety disorders, 43, 58-67.
Still have questions? Book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our therapists.