Before I considered becoming trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, let alone considering EMDR as a treatment option for myself, I needed answers! I had heard several things about this treatment which led me to believe this wasn't therapy, it was magic! What kind of magic? I wasn't certain of just yet. I had a few of my own concerns. Was I going to be hypnotized? Would I have parts of my brain wiped out? Is this all part of one big conspiracy theory? Subsequent to a near existential crisis, I pulled myself together and started delving into the research to find some answers.
After diving into the rabbit hole of published research articles on all things EMDR, and reading any information I could find that was solely written by author and brilliant human behind the research, Francine Shapiro, I was sold. EMDR is one of those things that makes you feel like right when you think you have discovered everything about it, you learn something new. After reading the third edition of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures written by the author herself, I was able to assume Shapiro intentionally wanted her research to continue to expand and grow, as the theory behind it, Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) continued to evolve.
My nerdy research brain, the left side of my brain, immediately started thinking of ways to expand the AIP model but stopped myself in my tracks when I realized I would need to become trained in EMDR, learn the theory, and learn how to actually do the thing first!
I went on to receive proper training, participated in my own EMDR sessions, have been providing EMDR therapy for over a year and I am currently in the process of becoming certified. Throughout my experience with EMDR, I realized that I wasn't the only one who had questions about EMDR.
Part of my job as a therapist is to teach clients about the interventions I use, as well as the rationale behind why I use particular interventions, to allow for my clients to decide if they feel the intervention would work for them. Therapy, especially EMDR, is a collaborative effort.
Naturally, it only made sense for me to address ten common questions people have about EMDR. To all of my potential client's, I send an EMDR information sheet with all of these questions clarified before you decide to commit to EMDR therapy to ensure we are on the same page.
As a reminder, there is always more information to be learned about EMDR. Here we are creating a strong base of information to add to as we continue to learn more about EMDR and its miraculous healing impact. Without further ado, here are ten frequently asked questions about EMDR.
What is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and how does it work?
EMDR is an 8-phase treatment that aims to help people process their trauma in a short period of time, without having to talk about their trauma in detail. Using Bilateral Eye Stimulation (BLS), EMDR therapists are able to help an individual unlock the traumatic memory in the area of the brain that processes and stores information. Together, client and clinician will process the trauma experienced in the past, as well as present, and will restore the memory of the trauma in a healthy way. This will allow for the individual to recall the traumatic memory but will no longer trigger the individual to have disturbing emotions, thoughts, and body sensations when recalling the experience.
What are the 8 phases of EMDR?
History & Treatment planning
How is Bilateral Eye Stimulation (BLS) used in EMDR?
In order to unlock the part of the brain that is storing the traumatic memory, as well as the emotions, thoughts and feelings that accompany the memory, therapists commonly use two fingers and ask individuals to follow their fingers from a left to right motion. Eye movements are recommended, although tapping and auditory stimulation has also been proven to help individuals unlock the part of the brain that is storing the traumatic memory.
Some therapists, like myself, who are providing EMDR therapy virtually, utilize an online controllable BLS (right click the link to open in new tab for folks that are technologically unsavvy as I can be. EMDR Online | Controllable Bilateral Stimulation). You could imagine, after seeing 2-4 EMDR client's every day, your therapist's arm is likely ready to fall off, or at best, your therapist can skip arm days at the gym in totality. This simulator has been a life savior for me! If you have challenges with your eyesight or simply feel the eye movements aren’t working, I recommend you let your therapist know in order for to try out a different method of BLS. Remember, without BLS, the part of the brain holding the traumatic memory cannot be unlocked, prolonging the processing period.
Where do EMDR therapists get trained? Can I trust my EMDR therapist?
EMDR therapists are members of and are guided by the EMDR International Association or EMDRIA. EMDRIA is a membership mental health organization whose goal is to make sure all EMDR therapists are upholding the highly held standards of EMDR practice, training, certification, and research. EMDR therapists are expected to receive supervision and consult with trained and experienced EMDR therapists when necessary to provide the best possible services, maintaining the integrity of EMDR practice.
Where can I find the original study that Shapiro conducted to find out that EMDR actually works? I need to see “the receipts”!
Is EMDR guaranteed to heal me from my trauma?
Although I have yet to work with a client that reported EMDR was not working for them, EMDR is just another intervention that may or may not work for you. Your responsiveness to EMDR will depend on a variety of internal and external factors, most importantly, how willing, open and free you are to the concept of letting go of your past.
Tell me more about this EMDR and how is it different from “regular” therapy?
Although there are several differences between EMDR, psychotherapy, and other interventions, the main differences are as follows:
No homework in between session
No need for discussing your trauma in great detail, we actually prefer you don’t!
Has been proven through several hundreds of different studies, symptoms can decrease significantly in just three 90-minute sessions (depending on the extent of your trauma and preparedness to work your way up the hill with your compassionate therapist, and back down the hill).
Studies have also shown after 12, 90-minute sessions, client’s no longer meet criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.
How is this any different from hypnosis? Is this some psychedelic gypsy situation? #Sketch
The most notable difference between EMDR and hypnosis in therapy is that a person in an EMDR session does not ever go into the trance-like state of consciousness. Yes, you’re conscious.
Your EMDR therapist will ensure you are grounded, focused and mindful by asking you to describe sensations you may be feeling throughout your body, and emotions that are coming up throughout sessions.
Hypnosis, on the other hand, is a process by which the specially trained therapist helps the client into a more relaxed state of mind that allows the person to go deeper and selectively move below the analytical mind making it easier to access unconscious memory and accept positive suggestions. Yes, you're unconscious.
The analytical left-hand side of the brain is turned off, while the creative/emotional right-hand side is made more alert to possibly help an individual talk about their repressed thoughts and feelings.
How will EMDR help me become the best version of myself to live my best life?
Through using EMDR to change the brain, people can turn unhealthy and self-destructive thoughts into healthy and positive beliefs and behaviors that will better their lives.
What type of challenges does EMDR address?
EMDR Therapy is being used to treat things like anxiety, PTSD, depression, low self-esteem, fear, addiction, trauma, as well as grief and loss. Studies have also recently shown EMDR to be an effective treatment for chronic pain.
I know that was a lot, but I hope it helps each one of you to have a better understanding about EMDR to help you see if EMDR is right for you! In my next article, I will go over the phases of EMDR treatment, what treatment actually looks like with me, and common reactions to EMDR treatment.
Thanks for reading! - Your neighborhood EMDR Therapist