Leone Centre Glossary

SUD Scale (Subjective Units of Disturbance) in EMDR

SUD Scale (Subjective Units of Disturbance)

The SUD Scale, or Subjective Units of Disturbance, is a tool used in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. This scale helps individuals and therapists gauge the level of distress associated with traumatic memories, aiding in EMDR sessions.

Measuring Distress

Many individuals undergoing EMDR therapy struggle to quantify their distress. The SUD Scale provides a simple method to articulate and measure their emotional response to specific memories or events. The SUD Scale is a 0-10 scale where individuals rate their level of disturbance or distress. A rating of 0 indicates no disturbance, while a rating of 10 signifies extreme distress. This measurement aids in tracking progress throughout EMDR therapy sessions.

About SUD Scale

The SUD Scale was developed to help quantify the subjective experience of distress. It is particularly useful in therapies like EMDR, where monitoring emotional responses to memories or stimuli is essential. The scale is straightforward, allowing individuals to communicate their level of discomfort easily.

How It Helps

The SUD Scale aids both individuals and therapists in tracking and addressing levels of distress. By providing a numerical value to feelings, it becomes easier to identify progress and areas needing further attention during EMDR sessions. This clarity is vital for the effective pacing and targeting of therapy.

How It Works

During an EMDR session, the therapist asks the individual to focus on a specific traumatic memory and then rate their disturbance on the SUD Scale from 0 to 10. This process is repeated throughout the session to monitor changes in distress levels, helping to adapt the session to the individual’s needs and track their progress over time.


What is the SUD Scale?
The SUD Scale is a numerical scale from 0 to 10 that measures the level of disturbance or distress an individual feels about a specific memory or event.
How is the SUD Scale used in EMDR therapy?
During EMDR therapy, the SUD Scale is used to assess and monitor the individual’s distress levels at various points in the session. This helps in tracking progress and adjusting the therapy accordingly.
Why is the SUD Scale important?
The SUD Scale is important because it provides a quantifiable measure of distress, facilitating better communication between the individual and the therapist, and enabling more precise tracking of therapeutic progress.


  1. Shapiro, F. (1989). Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR): Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. New York: Guilford Press.
  2. Maxfield, L., & Hyer, L. (2002). The relationship between efficacy and methodology in studies investigating EMDR treatment of PTSD. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(1), 23-41.
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This glossary provides definitions of various counselling terms and approaches for informational purposes only, without implying endorsement or service provision