Trauma-focused CBT and EMDR: what are these treatments and which should I choose?


Trauma-focused CBT and EMDR: what are these treatments and which should I choose?

Trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s mental health and well-being. It can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fortunately, there are effective treatments available to help individuals cope with and heal from trauma. Two of the most commonly used treatments are trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. In this article, we will explore what these treatments are and which one may be the best choice for you.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

TF-CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals process and cope with traumatic experiences. The goal of TF-CBT is to help individuals understand and change negative thoughts and behaviours related to their trauma, while also providing them with the change to reprocess and update trauma memories and develop coping skills to manage distressing emotions.

TF-CBT typically involves 12-16 sessions and is suitable for individuals of all ages. It has been found to be effective in treating a variety of traumas, including childhood abuse, natural disasters, personal injuries, and combat-related trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy

EMDR is a psychological therapy approach that was developed to treat PTSD. It involves a structured eight-phase process that includes recalling traumatic experiences while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or hand tapping. The goal of EMDR is to help individuals process and reframe traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment.

EMDR is now also commonly used to treat other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

Which Treatment Should I Choose?

Both TF-CBT and EMDR have been found to be effective in treating trauma. However, the best treatment for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Some factors to consider when choosing between these treatments include:

  • The type of trauma you have experienced
  • Your age and developmental stage
  • Your comfort level with different types of therapy
  • The availability of trained therapists in your area

It is important to note that both TF-CBT and EMDR should be conducted by a trained and licensed therapist. It is also recommended to discuss your options with a mental health professional to determine which treatment may be the best fit for you.

Evidence-base for TF-CBT and EMDR after brain injury

When it comes to individuals who have experienced trauma and also have a brain injury, it is important to consider the evidence-base for TF-CBT and EMDR. Research has shown that both treatments can be effective in this population, but there may be some considerations to take into account. For example, TF-CBT may be more suitable for individuals with cognitive impairments, as it focuses on cognitive restructuring and skill-building. On the other hand, EMDR may be beneficial for individuals with sensory processing issues, as the bilateral stimulation can help regulate the nervous system. Ultimately, it is important to consult with a mental health professional who is experienced in working with individuals with brain injuries to determine the best treatment approach.


Trauma-focused CBT and EMDR are two effective treatments for individuals who have experienced trauma. While they have some similarities, they also have distinct differences. It is important to consider your individual needs and preferences when choosing between these treatments. Remember, seeking help from a trained therapist is the first step towards healing from trauma.

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