Aerial view of a red car headlights on deep forest road

How Long Does It Take to Become Certified in EMDR Therapy?

Curious about becoming a certified EMDR therapist? Wondering how long the process takes?

Erika Tsoukanelis, LCSW, Center Faculty and Lead Trainer

The EMDR Certification Process, Explained

Janet was trained in EMDR therapy about a year ago. She is a practical sort. After completing her EMDR training, it was logical to her that she would put in the extra effort and hours to get certified. It would be good for business, she thought, and it helped that she was seeing such positive treatment outcomes for her clients as soon as she started to incorporate what she had learned in the EMDR Basic Training into her practice.  


When we connected over Zoom to go over all she had studied and absorbed in the year since she began her journey toward EMDR certification, I was pleased by how well she could articulate her understanding of this integrative, comprehensive psychotherapy. She spoke eloquently of the AIP model, Eight Phases, and Three-Pronged Approach. I could feel her satisfaction in having met the requirements for EMDR certification. But it was when she leaned in that I was the most delighted for her.


EMDR therapy is easy to learn but hard to do well.

“I started this because I wanted it on my resume,” Janet told me, “and I have no qualms about that. It’s going to be great to show that I am committed to being a good EMDR therapist.”


“What I wasn’t expecting was how much more I learned. It all seemed so easy on paper. Once you identify a disturbing memory to target, you just follow the procedural steps on your script.  When the present triggers are resolved, you apply a future template of action to ensure that the client can think, feel, and respond differently to a similar situation in the future.  And, oh yes, the past is present for better and for worse.”


It's not just about learning technique.  It’s about bringing your clients on a healing journey.

“The consultation and training hours have shown me just how deep this stuff goes,” Janet remarked. “I look at my clients differently now. I better understand that the problems they bring to me are only the tip of an iceberg that runs deep beneath the surface, 

but takes up residence in their systems in ways that are unknown to the therapist and client alike. I can feel their memories in the room with us and inside them as if those things are still going on, yet this is all outside of their conscious awareness.  Now I can understand who this human is and why they struggle as they do. Now I can make clinical choices that are informed by what my clients need, and work closely with them to help them understand and get them on board with the process.” 


“I’ve learned not to be just a technician, but a clinician, who works collaboratively and relationally within the therapeutic alliance.  Now that I am certified in EMDR therapy, I will never be the same therapist again.”


Certified EMDR therapists are a cut above the rest.  Here’s what’s involved.

Janet’s story is not unique. I felt the same way about the certification process when I was at the beginning of my journey as an EMDR therapist, and my learning continues to grow exponentially. This potential for expansion is why I encourage my colleagues who come to trainings to consider getting certified. 


Certification brings you into the international EMDR community. It holds a standard of care for us all, and the process is straightforward. Individuals have five years to complete the requirements, but many people do it in under 18 months. Here is what you need:


  1. A final certificate of completion from an EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) approved EMDR training.


  1. A current license to practice as a mental health professional in your state or province.


  1. notarized statement indicating that you have two years of experience in your field of license and have conducted at least 50 EMDR reprocessing sessions with at least 25 different clients.


  1. Minimum of 20 hours of EMDR-focused case consultation with an EMDRIA-approved Consultant. 10 of those hours are individual and 10 are group. 


  1. Letters of recommendation for EMDR Certification from your EMDR Consultants. Some people work with one consultant throughout the process, and others work with more to broaden their experience. 


  1. Two additional letters of recommendation from colleagues or peers testifying on your behalf regarding your skill as an EMDR therapist, your professional ethics, and your personal character.


12 hours of EMDRIA credits. Dive more deeply into trainings.  The Center is a one-stop shop that offers you a broad range of courses such as “The Craft of EMDR Therapy,” the next step after completing your EMDR Basic Training; “Healing the Wounds of Attachment”; applying EMDR therapy to special populations such as children and adolescents; and Relational EMDR Therapy℠ trainings, where you learn the nuances of working relationally with complex developmental trauma.


Once you are certified, you are required to take 12 hours of EMDRIA credits every two years to stay current. Many professionals choose to do more as it’s only a minimum. There are always opportunities for ongoing education and new research to explore. For those who love to teach, you can become a consultant yourself, facilitate basic trainings, and ultimately become a trainer if you like. 


Be a cut above the rest.

In the process of becoming certified, Janet learned something important. The EMDR Basic Training is just that: basic.  It offers you a foundational knowledge, but it in no way prepares you to work with everyone who comes to you for help. 


Yes, getting certified is work, but it’s a labor of love and a commitment to healing trauma. Clients who seek EMDR therapy will see that you are certified and know that you have invested deeply in your craft. Why? Because you are a part of a community of EMDR therapists all over the world who are devoted to giving their clients the best. Aren’t you?


Check out how to become a cut above the rest in EMDR therapy here.