The choice to begin healing, treating your trauma, and changing your life, is not a decision to be made lightly. There are many choices in therapy out there. EMDR is a highly effective, evidence based treatment for trauma.
WHO CAN BENEFIT?
EMDR therapy helps children and adults - of all ages. Therapists use EMDR with a wide range of challenges:
Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
Chronic Illness and medical issues
Depression and bipolar disorders
Grief and loss
PTSD and other trauma and stress related issues
Substance abuse and addiction
Violence and abuse
How Does EMDR Work?
Truth is, we don't exactly know how it works, but
We know that it does work, for many conditions.
You can check out the research at EMDRIA:
What is EMDR Therapy like?
The first session with an EMDR therapist might not feel all that different from any other therapist you've seen before. EMDR is an 8 phase model, phase 1 includes gathering relevant information and beginning to assess for safety, stability and resources. Often times clients will wonder when EMDR will start, really it begins the moment you initiate treatment. EMDR therapy is a comprehensive treatment model that encompasses more than just the eye movements.
The preparation phase (phase 2) of EMDR therapy is when the client and therapist work together to establish skills and resources to ensure successful, safe and efficient trauma work. This phase can take 2 session, or 2 years depending on some complicating factors including: amount of traumatic incidents, your age when they occurred, internal and external resources, the presence of destructive or unsafe behaviors such as cutting, suicidal ideation, or substance abuse. This phase is an important one and can not be skipped. The more you practice your skills, the more efficiently you can move forward. Phase 2 is returned to throughout treatment as changes are made, life stressors occur, and breaks are needed. Once stability is achieved, phase 3 can begin.
Phase 3 and 4 of EMDR therapy work together. This is when the details of your trauma and the specific incidents will be explored. The nice thing about EMDR, is that you will not have to share every little detail of the incidents with the therapist. You can if necessary, but the brain knows how to heal, and talking about the trauma is not what produces the healing. I ask clients for the headlines of their traumatic incidents, not the story. It isn't necessary to flush out all the details before phase 4 reprocessing begins and can actually slow down the work.
There are times you may feel cut off or interrupted by your therapist
This is not due to a lack of interest or caring, it is part of the protocol. We do not get into verbal or cognitive processing during this phase. This is when the work will feel different than typical talk therapy. The work in phase 4 can feel pretty intense, and the skills learned in prior phases will be of use during this time. Target memories are addressed one at a time. As the distress comes down, the hope is that your reactivity to your past will also decrease. Usually, present day symptoms will ideally decrease as well. Please make sure to tell your therapist if you are not staying stable during the week, or if unpleasant symptoms are feeling too much to handle. Week to week the work will progress systematically, and at a pace that is right for you. The negative beliefs about yourself, your relationships and the world should being to shift in this phase. Sometimes dramatically, and sometimes in increments that are not noticeable until you are reminded of what life use to feel like.
EMDR Therapy can create internal changes that are likely to be permanent. Unlike talk therapy, EMDR Therapy changes the beliefs about the self in the mind, heart and body. These changes are life altering and powerful. Coping skills are essential, but the hope with EMDR Therapy is to eliminate symptoms instead of learning to cope with them.
After an EMDR session, it is possible to feel emotionally drained, or tired, much like you might feel after a good workout. It is also possible to feel really good, light and energized. The processing can continue for 24-48 hours after a session, so take note of anything that comes up that feels related to the work you are doing. If possible, try not to plan anything for a couple hours after your appointment to allow some time for yourself. At times, symptoms may increase, or emotional responses may feel exaggerated during EMDR Therapy, other traumatic memories could surface, you may have vivid dreams or heightened physical symptoms. The reprocessing accesses and opens up the channels in the brain that hold the traumatic material and may stay activated, and can continue to process after a session. Ideally, you and your therapist have made a plan for this and are consistently working within your window of tolerance to avoid as much distress between sessions as possible. If you need help managing between sessions, please reach out to your therapist, access your skills, or contact someone who can be a support to you.
As always call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room should you experience unmanageable suicidal thoughts or urges.