This is a question I’ve been asked many times over the past several months. My answer is often a resounding “Yes!” due to the many applications for this intervention. If you’ve heard the buzz around EMDR and wonder if it’s right for you, here is some information you might consider for yourself and then discuss it with a therapist trained or certified in EMDR.
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic intervention that allows people to heal from traumatic or disturbing life events. We all have neural pathways in our brains that help us make sense of the world around us. However, these pathways can become blocked after a traumatic experience. Using eye movements or other bilateral stimulation, EMDR helps reprocess the memories related to those events, thus removing the blocks in the neural pathways. Once the block is removed, the brain begins to heal from the traumatic event.
EMDR therapy involves an eight-phase process that begins with the therapist gathering some information about the client to understand how the client thinks. After a session or two dedicated to building a relationship with me, my clients can expect to spend several sessions learning some resources or tools for calming their central nervous systems and preparing to expose themselves to trauma or disturbing life events. Your therapist will be highly attuned to your needs and will go at your pace as you learn and implement these tools.
During phases3-6 of EMDR, clients will identify a target for therapeutic treatment. The client will identify a vivid memory, a negative belief about self, and any related body sensations and emotions. The therapist will assist the client with identifying a positive belief the client holds despite the negative experience. This is where the trauma processing begins! Your therapist will ask the client to scale the negative and positive beliefs then instruct the client focus on the memory or emotion targeted. The therapist will then ask the client to concentrate on eye movements, auditory tones, or gentle tapping while holding this memory for several seconds. The therapist then asks the client to simply notice what, if any associated thoughts, memories, or emotions came up then the process continues. This may take several sessions with the therapist.
Step 7 is fairly simple: a client keeps a journal of thoughts, feelings, or emotions associated with the target and which resources they used to combat these reactions. Phase 8 is an opportunity to review progress and identify any areas of distress that remain.
My clients often wonder if eye movements must be part of the process. The answer is “No!” Many clients choose other methods of bilateral stimulation, including the use of auditory tones, gentle tapping with their hands, or the use of a gentle vibration, a rainstick, or even a fidget toy. In fact, when my child clients and I are engaged in EMDR, we often take a walk, paint, draw, or even play basketball.
My clients also wonder where to find a therapist who practices EMDR. Here at Creative Family Counseling, we have several therapist trained or certified in EMDR. You can also visit emdria.com to find an EMDR practitioner in your area. For more information on how Creative Family Counseling can help you decide if EMDR is right for you, simply give us call at 502-709-0410 or connect with us online at creativefamilycounseling.org