Hypnotherapy or EMDR? Differences, similarities and combination

When it comes to therapy, there is a plethora of modalities that allow us to delve into the depths of the mind to heal past trauma and strengthen our well-being. Two of the most well-known techniques are hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), which often intrigue individuals seeking therapeutic intervention. While both techniques share the goal of alleviating distress and promoting healing, they operate through distinct mechanisms and cater to different therapeutic needs. They can also be combined for greater impact, this approach is also known as hypno-EMDR.


What's the difference between EMDR and hypnosis?

Hypnotherapy is rooted in the power of suggestion and altered states of consciousness. To be successful, hypnotherapists utilise guided relaxation and breathing techniques to induce a state of heightened suggestibility in which the therapist can explore and address subconscious issues. This method aims to tap into the unconscious mind to identify and reframe thought patterns and behaviours contributing to psychological distress.

On the other hand, EMDR stands as a unique psychotherapeutic approach initially developed to alleviate symptoms associated with traumatic experiences. EMDR incorporates bilateral stimulation, typically through eye movements, to facilitate the reprocessing of distressing memories. This process aims to enable the individual to integrate traumatic memories into their narrative in a less distressing manner.

Is EMDR a form of hypnosis?

While EMDR incorporates elements of relaxation and altered states of consciousness akin to hypnosis, it is not considered a form of hypnotherapy. Unlike hypnotherapy, which primarily relies on verbal suggestion and imagery, EMDR focuses on the bilateral stimulation of sensory channels to facilitate memory processing.

EMDR incorporates elements reminiscent of hypnosis, such as inducing a relaxed state and heightened suggestibility. However, EMDR is not strictly considered a form of hypnosis. While both techniques aim to access and reprocess subconscious material, they do so through different mechanisms.

Hypnosis primarily relies on verbal suggestion and imagery to access the subconscious mind, whereas EMDR utilises bilateral stimulation, typically through eye movements, to facilitate memory reprocessing. In hypnosis, the therapist directs the process, while in EMDR, the client is actively engaged in recalling and reprocessing traumatic memories.

Though they share similarities in promoting altered states of consciousness, the fundamental approaches and objectives of hypnosis and EMDR distinguish them as distinct therapeutic modalities.

What conditions can EMDR and hypnotherapy be used for?

  • Anxiety disorders: This includes generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Arising from various traumatic experiences such as accidents, combat, abuse, or natural disasters.
  • Depression: Including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), and seasonal affective disorder.
  • Panic disorders: Characterised by recurrent panic attacks and associated symptoms of fear, anxiety, and physical discomfort.
  • Addictions: Such as substance abuse disorders (alcohol, drugs) and behavioural addictions (gambling, internet and porn addiction).
  • Sleep disorders: Including insomnia, nightmares, and other sleep disturbances.
  • Stress management: Assisting individuals in developing coping strategies and relaxation techniques to manage stress more effectively.

What is hypno-EMDR?

This is an innovative integration of hypnotherapy and EMDR techniques. This approach combines the relaxation and suggestibility of hypnotherapy with the memory reprocessing mechanisms of EMDR. By incorporating hypnotic induction prior to EMDR processing, therapists aim to enhance the individual's receptivity to therapeutic interventions and promote deeper levels of healing.

Is hypno-EMDR more effective?

Research supports the efficacy of combining hypnotherapy and EMDR for addressing various psychological conditions. Studies indicate that this integrative approach can enhance treatment outcomes, particularly for individuals with complex trauma histories or treatment-resistant symptoms. By synergistically harnessing the strengths of both modalities, therapists can offer comprehensive and tailored interventions to address diverse therapeutic needs.

Another research by Van den Berg et al. (2015) demonstrated significant symptom reduction and improved psychological well-being in individuals receiving combined EMDR-hypnotherapy for PTSD.

Similarly, Shapiro et al. (2018) reported favourable outcomes for trauma survivors undergoing integrated EMDR-hypnotherapy interventions.

Can hypno-EMDR be useful for traumatic memory and its impact?

This combined approach offers a powerful intervention for individuals with traumatic memories. By integrating hypnotic induction before EMDR processing, it enhances receptivity to therapeutic interventions and promotes deeper healing.

This approach enables individuals to access and process traumatic memories within a safe and relaxed state, facilitating emotional processing and integration. Hypno-EMDR works by guiding individuals into a hypnotic trance, where they experience heightened suggestibility and reduced defences.

Subsequently, bilateral stimulation techniques are employed to facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic memories, allowing for their transformation from distressing recollections to more manageable and integrated experiences. This integrative approach can lead to significant symptom reduction, emotional healing, and improved overall well-being for trauma survivors.

Can you access EMDR via the NHS?

EMDR therapy may be available through the NHS for individuals with specific mental health conditions, particularly PTSD. Success rates vary depending on individual factors, the severity of symptoms, and the appropriateness of the treatment approach.

However, research suggests that EMDR can yield positive outcomes for many individuals, with significant symptom reduction and improved quality of life.

So, hypnotherapy and EMDR represent distinct yet complementary approaches to psychotherapeutic intervention, offering individuals pathways to healing and emotional well-being. While hypnotherapy taps into the power of suggestion and altered states of consciousness, EMDR focuses on facilitating the reprocessing of traumatic memories through bilateral stimulation.

By understanding the nuances of each modality and their respective applications, therapists can tailor interventions to meet the diverse needs of their clients, promoting healing and resilience in the face of adversity.

Finally, for those who prefer a therapy that involves the full potential of your subconscious mind using hypnosis and lucid dream or working with a behavioural modality like life coaching can be very powerful.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Written by N. Verdickt, Hypno-EMDR, Lucid Dream, Kinesiology & Family Constellation
London SE14 & W11

Mr Verdickt is a body & mind Therapist specialised in Hypnotherapy, EMDR, Lucid Dreaming, African Constellation and Kinesiology. Critical thinker, he also produced thought provoking content to make this world a better place. Follow him on Substack https://theverdickttherapy.substack.com/

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