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EMDR: A Valuable Tool for Athletes and Performers

Updated: Mar 18

In essence, EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapy that helps people process and overcome distressing experiences. And while it’s often associated with PTSD, it’s also been found to be incredibly beneficial for athletes and performers.


Our past experiences and memories shape our beliefs and perceptions of ourselves, which can influence our athletic potential. Negative beliefs can hinder our competitive performance . EMDR therapy helps uncover and address the underlying connections that lead to these negative beliefs, allowing for personal growth and improved athletic capabilities.

When traumatic events are not properly processed by the brain, they can linger unresolved. The concept behind EMDR is that new experiences should seamlessly integrate with our existing memory networks to create a coherent understanding of our experiences. Consequently, when an experience is not processed correctly, it may become lodged in our memory, leading to challenges later on, such as unfavorable reactions to similar situations in the present.

In essence, EMDR, can be incredibly beneficial for athletes and performers. Here’s why:

EMDR can assist athletes in reducing self-criticism, enhancing self-awareness, and challenging negative thoughts that may hinder their ability to recognize their own victories and successes. Compared to traditional therapy, EMDR can efficiently uncover and address these issues in a condensed timeframe. Essentially, the therapy aims to reduce the intensity of traumatic memories and alleviate the physical symptoms associated with them. EMDR consists of eight stages focused on altering the perception of distressing memories and fostering positive self-beliefs related to these memories.

Addressing Performance Anxiety: Athletes and performers often face performance anxiety, which can hinder their ability to excel in their respective fields. EMDR therapy for athletes can assist in reprocessing negative experiences and emotions related to performance anxiety, ultimately reducing their impact and enabling a more positive mindset during competitions or performances.

Enhancing Focus and Concentration: The pressure to perform at a high level can be distracting for athletes and performers. EMDR therapy can help individuals improve their focus and concentration, leading to better performance outcomes and a clearer mindset.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety: The demands of competition and the fear of injury can contribute to high levels of stress and anxiety for athletes and performers. Whether it’s the pressure of competition or the fear of injury, stress and anxiety can take a toll on an athlete’s or performer’s mental and physical well-being.EMDR therapy can help alleviate these stressors, allowing individuals to manage their emotions more effectively and approach their performance with greater ease and confidence.

Assisting with Injury Recovery: Injuries can be a big setback for athletes and performers. Injuries can not only impact an athlete's physical capabilities but also have significant psychological implications, such as diminished confidence and motivation. By processing these emotions and experiences, athletes and performers can recover faster and return to performing at their best. EMDR therapy can aid in processing the emotional aspects of injury, facilitating a quicker recovery process and supporting athletes and performers in returning to peak performance levels.

Body Image: Body image concerns are common among athletes and performers. EMDR can assist in fostering healthier self-perceptions, encouraging positive thoughts and behaviors that align with safe and optimal physical well-being.

Research findings on EMDR for athletes suggest that this therapy effectively diminishes the intensity of traumatic memories more effectively than relaxation techniques and positively impacts symptoms of depression and overall well-being in a short period of time. For athletes encountering trauma or performance hurdles stemming from past negative experiences such as challenging defeats, injuries, or mental barriers in sports, EMDR shows promise in addressing these issues.

In conclusion, EMDR therapy is expanding its scope beyond treating PTSD and is increasingly utilized to support athletes in addressing trauma and optimizing performance. While EMDR for athletes is not a quick fix, it presents an innovative alternative to conventional sports psychology approaches.

Click to learn more about EMDR

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