Does EMDR Work for Complex PTSD? The [Complete] Guide to C-PTSD Therapy


Does EMDR Work for Complex PTSD?

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a type of therapy that has been used to treat PTSD.

However, recent studies have shown that EMDR may also be an effective treatment for complex PTSD (C-PTSD).

This article will explore the research on EMDR and C-PTSD, as well as provide practical tips for how to support the therapy with a weighted blanket.

What is complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD, or C-PTSD, is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder that is caused by prolonged or repetitive exposure to traumatic events. It is distinct from PTSD in that it is usually caused by multiple adverse experiences, such as child abuse and neglect, emotional detachment from parents, physical or sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, human trafficking, or exposure to war or living in a wartorn region.

People with complex PTSD may suffer from intrusive thoughts, a constant sense of danger even when there is no threat present. Treatment for complex PTSD typically involves talk therapy, medication, or EMDR.

What are the symptoms of complex PTSD?

The symptoms of complex PTSD can include

  • relationship issues,
  • PTSD flashbacks or nightmares,
  • hyperarousal or being in a state of high alert,
  • loss of trust in others,
  • difficulty sleeping or concentrating,
  • being startled by loud noises,
  • issues with emotional regulation,
  • detachment from the trauma,
  • suicidal thoughts,
  • feeling different from other people,
  • explosive anger,
  • a negative self-view,
  • shame, guilt, or helplessness,
  • preferring to avoid some friendships or family members,
  • dissociative symptoms such as depersonalization or derealization,
  • distorted perception of one’s abuser.

In addition, people with C-PTSD might engage in behaviors such as abusing alcohol or drugs, becoming people-pleasers, or lashing out at minor criticisms.

What are the treatment options for complex PTSD?

The treatment options for complex PTSD include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), prolonged exposure therapy (PET), medications, and Family Strategies Counseling & Mediation.

EMDR is a form of bilateral stimulation which can help people with complex PTSD process traumatic memories and desensitize them to the trauma. It is important to note that treatment for complex PTSD can take longer than treatment for PTSD due to the range of symptoms and the need to build rapport and positive coping skills. With the right treatment plan and the help of a skilled therapist, it is possible to manage and overcome the symptoms of C-PTSD.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR is a psychotherapy designed to help people suffering from complex PTSD and other forms of trauma. It works by utilizing a combination of eye movements, verbal suggestion, and physical prompts from the therapist. EMDR therapy has 8 phases, the first phase is for the therapist to gain an understanding of the trauma and its effects. This is followed by teaching the client mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help manage any anxiety or stress.

During an EMDR session, the client and therapist agree on a particular memory or experience to focus on. The therapist then passes a finger or pen back and forth the client is instructed to follow with their eyes. As they do this, they are encouraged to focus on the memory or experience. The idea is that with repeated sessions, the emotional intensity of the memory will be diminished over time as the combination of physical and mental processes take effect.

As EMDR is not a “quick-fix,” clients are also encouraged to use positive coping techniques outside of their sessions to help support the process. With the right support and guidance, clients can often gain a new perspective on the traumatic event, experience less anxiety and stress when thinking about it, and may even develop positive emotions associated with the memory.

Are there any side effects of using EMDR for treating complex PTSD?

Yes, there could be some side effects to using EMDR for treating complex PTSD. These include the treatment taking longer than usual, the need for concurrent therapy to develop skills for regulating emotions, and the difficulty of using EMDR with dissociative survivors. Additionally, because of the multiple and repeated traumas, the time frame for treatment may be longer than usual.

Does EMDR work for complex PTSD?

Does EMDR work for complex PTSD? The answer is yes, but with some modifications to the standard EMDR protocol. When treating complex PTSD, EMDR sessions will typically take longer and may require the client to build skills for regulating emotions and calming themselves down before diving into the desensitization and reprocessing. EMDR can be difficult to do if the survivor dissociates, which is common with complex PTSD, so it is important to look for an EMDR therapist skilled in working with dissociation.

Additionally, because complex PTSD includes many more thoughts, memories, and experiences, the time frame for treatment gets longer. The treatment time will strongly vary depending on the person and their needs. The therapist will need to look through these memories, feelings, and experiences and the patient may need to access and process a particular thought, memory, or feeling for a longer period of time.

Overall, EMDR can be a successful and helpful intervention for treating complex PTSD symptoms. However, it is important to find a qualified EMDR therapist with experience in treating complex trauma. With the help of a knowledgeable therapist, EMDR therapy can help provide closure from complex PTSD.

Weighted blankets for complex PTSD

Weighted blankets are becoming popular for those dealing with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). The deep pressure stimulation provided by the blanket can be calming and help individuals to recover from their traumatic memories. The blanket’s pressure helps to relax the body and mind, creating a sense of safety and security. This makes it easier to refocus attention away from the painful memories, while reducing symptoms such as anxiety and difficulty sleeping with CPTSD.

C-PTSD lost hope
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Weighted blankets can be used alongside the EMDR Protocol, which is modified specifically for those who have unstable complex PTSD. This protocol helps to process the trauma and heal, giving people the tools they need to lead a happier life.


How long does EMDR take for complex trauma?

EMDR is a highly effective form of therapy for treating complex trauma, but the time frame for treatment is much longer than for other types of trauma. It usually takes years of therapy, with multiple reprocessing sessions, to fully resolve complex PTSD.

EMDR can be difficult to do if the survivor dissociates, which is common with complex PTSD. To ensure success, the survivor should also have prior or concurrent therapy to develop skills for regulating emotions and calming down during trauma reactions.

How many EMDR sessions are needed for complex PTSD?

The number of EMDR sessions needed to treat complex PTSD varies depending on the individual and their specific needs. Generally, it takes longer to treat complex PTSD than other traumas. The EMDR Institute found that only 1 in 10 trauma survivors required more than 3 sessions to reprocess negative PTSD symptoms.

Each person’s treatment plan may involve more sessions, as the therapist needs time to sift through the patient’s memories, feelings, and experiences. With support from the therapist, the patient is able to hold that for a longer period of time, which can mean working on many memories in order to find closure.


AUTHOR=Gonzalez-Vazquez Ana I., Rodriguez-Lago Lucía, Seoane-Pillado Maria T., Fernández Isabel, García-Guerrero Francisca, Santed-Germán Miguel A.

TITLE=The Progressive Approach to EMDR Group Therapy for Complex Trauma and Dissociation: A Case-Control Study

JOURNAL=Frontiers in Psychology






Categorized as PTSD

By lezt

Lez Taylor, Founder and CEO of Corala Blanket. She tried every sleep system and trick to conquer her insomnia for good.