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What is the Window of Tolerance?

The window of tolerance is a term commonly used in trauma counseling. It describes the zone of arousal in which a person can function effectively. Basically, it means that you can feel upset (anxious/scared/etc.), but still be able to function and not be completely highjacked by your emotions.

Trauma can often make your window of tolerance really small, making it difficult to stay balanced in the face of stress.

I often share this infographic from nicabm with clients and consultees, which is a great visual aide for describing the window of tolerance.

The window of tolerance is an essential part of EMDR therapy. For any effective reprocessing during phase 4 of EMDR to be done, a client must be able to maintain dual awareness. This means that a client must be able to have one foot in a memory and one foot in the present. For this to happen, a client first must learn how to widen and strengthen their window of tolerance.

Phase 2 of EMDR (resourcing) is an integral part of the 8 phase treatment, since it helps to widen the window of tolerance and prepare you for phase 4 (the part where you actually do the eye movements). Resourcing and assessment for readiness for reprocessing is necessary to prevent re-traumatization and worsening of dissociation.


About the Author

Dana Carretta-Stein is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, and Carretta Consulting in Scarsdale, NY.  She specializes in clinical psychotherapy to treat children, adolescents and adults with anxiety, behavior and trauma difficulties.

She is a certified EMDR therapist and EMDR Approved Consultant, specializing in complex trauma and dissociation. Dana is also a business marketing coach for wellness practitioners who are looking to build and grow their private practice.

For more information, visit


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