Did someone suggest that you try EMDR therapy? Does it feel like you’ve tried therapy before, but it just doesn’t work for you? Do you feel stuck and unable to see a positive future for yourself?
Like so many others, are you realizing that just talking about your life or your past isn’t getting you anywhere? Maybe you feel silly talking about something that seems so minor when you reflect back—or at least you try to tell yourself that it was no big deal. You have thought about the painful events and traumas that pop up out of nowhere, told yourself you are stupid or silly and to just ignore these memories, but nothing gets better.
It is difficult to be with others, I mean really with them, when you are analyzing and reflecting on past situations. There can be so much anxiety when you are trying to dream about the future—there can be so many negative beliefs about yourself, other people and the world. We try so many ways to avoid or numb out during the day, and ways to knock ourselves out so we can sleep. Otherwise, we toss and turn restlessly throughout the nights.
Are you pretty sure, if you could just stop thinking about all of this, you would be energized about your life? Without these burdens, you could finally have more curiosity and creativity to do what you love. You have tried other things that just have not worked. With the help of a trained and compassionate therapist, you can find the relief through EMDR therapy.
There is good news! You can get the help you need!
You’ve heard from others that EMDR was helpful, and you’ve been thinking of trying it, but you still have questions. Below we address some of the most common concerns.
What is EMDR therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an evidence-based treatment that is used to relieve emotional distress, trauma and pain from the mind and body. EMDR therapy helps people heal from disturbing life experiences. What once took years for people to work through, can now take fewer sessions for you to begin to notice a difference in your day-to-day life. The mind can and wants to heal from trauma just like our bodies when they are hurt. If you cut your leg, your body works to close that wound. If something gets into the cut that irritates the wound, it can get infected and blocked from healing. Once the infection or block is removed, healing resumes and the leg looks almost like new again.
EMDR Therapy works much the same—the painful memory is like that cut on your leg and if that painful memory has an infection, it is very painful to have it just be there. We tend to worry and focus on it, but it doesn’t heal without some additional intervention to help get rid of the block / infection that is not allowing it to process out of the brain and file away into long-term storage.
During EMDR therapy, we will work on those negative beliefs and messages that you have about yourself and replace those with more positive thinking. We will clear the body of any sensations or disturbances related to those events in the past.
Often we are asked what that word “Reprocessing” means in the title. “Reprocessing” does not mean talking about what happened to you. “Reprocessing” means setting up a “learning state” that will allow experiences and memories that are causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately in your brain. Which means what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate beliefs and emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future. What is not useful, the inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded.
A typical EMDR Session:
It’s always good to start with some overall history. I’ll ask some questions about various areas of your life to get to know you as a whole person. This allows us to build trust and for you to know whether or not you feel safe as we work together. We will take the time to have a short list of 3-5 memories, pictures, or body sensations that you want to treat with EMDR therapy. You might have fewer than 3 or more than 5, that’s fine too!
We will try a few different types of bilateral stimulation (BLS). We could us eye movements, pulsars you hold in your hand, self-tapping, tones in headphones or a combination of these.
As your therapist, I will have you focus on that memory, thoughts about yourself connected to the memory, as well as the emotions, and body sensations linked to the memory. Then, when you are ready, I will apply the bilateral stimulation which we agreed to use.
The eye movements will remind your body of REM sleep and help the body begin to release the poorly stored memory. It helps the brain use good insight and other good thoughts to digest the memory in a new way. The memory will not be erased, but you will not get “triggered” when you think of the memory in the future.
Is EMDR like hypnosis?
Like hypnosis, we want to use your own wise mind to heal and empower you by allowing your brain to access unconscious thoughts. However, with EMDR therapy, you will be fully awake, alert, conscious of your body and emotions. You will be fully present to what is happening throughout the sessions.
Does EMDR Therapy require homework?
No, there is no homework required while you are in EMDR Therapy. Unless you like homework and really want something to do between sessions. Sometimes, you might be asked to practice using a relaxation or breathing technique. This might be helpful to stabilize your nervous system before diving into the past memories. And, if clients forget or don’t chose to do them, EMDR Therapy still works.
What can be healed by using EMDR Therapy?
At first, EMDR was used primary for PTSD memories and events. However, as time has passed and more clinicians are using EMDR in newer areas of research, we are finding that EMDR Therapy has proven to treat many issues such as, but not limited to:
Phobias (flying, snakes, driving on the freeway, etc)
Abuse (sexual, physical, emotional)
Addictions (smoking, drugs, alcohol, gambling, video-gaming, shoplifting, shopping, social media, etc)
Is EMDR online therapy just as effective?
Absolutely! There are many creative ways we have found to provide the bilateral stimulation over video. Sometimes, there are more benefits to being in your own comfortable home environment, not having to drive before or after a session, more options in your schedule and more accessible, etc.
Can EMDR therapy be harmful?
EMDR therapy is considered to be safe. There are a couple of possible side effect early in treatment such as dizziness, increased emotional intensity, awareness of more physical sensations after sessions. Fortunately, these effects reduce as the memories of what happened to you become less powerful.
It’s important as you consider which therapist to work with, to work with someone who has additional advanced trainings and experience using EMDR therapy with many different types of clients.
Before we start working with the memories, I’ll make sure you have good coping skills to manage any reactions that might happen and we’ll use these grounding and relaxation exercises at the end of sessions. As we continue to work together, most likely we will not have to use these at the end of every session.
Can I do EMDR therapy on my own?
You can naturally use some slow tapping exercises to help with relaxation, and there is also some equipment available to wear on your wrists (TouchPoints) that can help with de-escalation from powerful emotions between sessions. However, there are times where clients loop in a memory, like they are going around and around on a carousel, and the memory just will not let go. The guidance of a good therapist can help you get off the merry-go-round and keep moving that disturbing material to a positive resolution. A large part of the power of treatment is sharing and processing in a safe, non-judgmental environment. As a result, you will have a deeper and more thorough experience than you would have alone.
Will EMDR therapy work for me?
You may be experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions, thoughts that will not shut off, unpleasant body sensations—or numbness that suggests your mind and body has undigested trauma. Most likely, EMDR therapy will be beneficial for you, but you’ll never know unless you try it.
Are you blaming yourself for being unable to resolve this on your own or for considering help? EMDR therapy allows you the opportunity to face your fears and feelings truthfully, holistically and directly. This can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. I have observed most people find relief after just eight sessions, with clients reporting lasting and very pleasing results.
Take the next step…
Stress and trauma can set up shop in your life for a very long time. But only if you let them. The first step to regaining control of your life and future is to accept that you have a problem. Then, you can accept the help that will make recovery possible.
You deserve a life free from stress and trauma. You have a right to full recovery. With EMDR therapy, you can achieve lasting hope, sustainable peace and a future with less emotional baggage.
Talk to me about EMDR therapy. It’s time to really let go of your fear. Draw a line in the sand, do not let the past keep you in a choke hold. Together, let’s restore your ability to have a life worth living.