What is E.M.D.R.?
E.M.D.R. (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is a form of psychotherapy designed to more quickly and more fully alleviate the negative effects of stressful or disturbing life events. E.M.D.R. is just one of the many tools I can access in providing therapy to my clients. I like to think of it as humanistic form of C.B.T. (cognitive behavioral therapy.)
During E.M.D.R. therapy, the client imagines the emotionally disturbing content while focusing on lateral eye movements as directed by the therapist. (I typically use my hand to direct your gaze back-and-forth. However, I can also utilize tapping on the knees as a way to stimulate bilateral processing.)
Studies have shown that trauma tends to be stored in non-verbal, non-conscious, subcortical regions of the brain, making it hard to access and work through because of lack of access on the part of the left hemisphere and frontal lobes.
The theory behind E.M.D.R. is that it engages both brain hemispheres while the client is processing trauma which facilitates a more efficient and effective recovery from trauma and distress.
It’s thought that E.M.D.R. replicates what occurs during R.E.M. sleep where our eyes move laterally, assisting our brains in efficiently processing memories via various internal associations. E.M.D.R. is a more directed and focused version of this process.
What does E.M.D.R. treat?
E.M.D.R. is an effective form of therapy for anything from severe trauma to stressful thoughts and feelings that may be keeping you from living up to your full potential. It can be used to treat everything from anxiety and O.C.D. to depression and P.T.S.D., to name a few forms of psychological and emotional distress.
What should you look for in an E.M.D.R. therapist?
You should, of course, make sure your therapist is trained in E.M.D.R. Secondly, like any other form of therapy, the most successful predictor of success is your relationship with the therapist. You need to feel that your therapist “gets you” and is focused on building a solid therapeutic relationship.
In the case of severe trauma or P.T.S.D., you want to make sure your therapist is comfortable, trained, and has experience in trauma work.
What can you expect during E.M.D.R. therapy?
There are several steps involved in the practice of E.M.D.R. You should expect your therapist to devote some time to establishing a good rapport and working relationship with you. They should make an effort to understand you in relation to your larger context. You need to feel comfortable disclosing potentially difficult information and you need to feel understood.
Some amount of time will also be devoted to identifying and solidifying relaxation and containment techniques that work for you that can be used by you should you start to feel overwhelmed and anxious. These may involve breathing, grounding and visualization exercises and/or positive thoughts and incidents that will be enhanced through bilateral stimulation (lateral eye movements or tapping on the knees.)
When working with me, you will likely come to me with a presenting problem. This may be a traumatic or stressful event or it may be a maladaptive coping mechanism associated with trauma or stress. I will work with you to identify the issue you would like to target, along with associated feelings and negative core beliefs. There are many ways we can achieve this depending on how you organize thoughts and emotions. We will also work to identify a more positive core belief to replace the negative and incidents associated with that positive belief.
Once we have identified what you would like to target, we will begin to utilize the bilateral stimulation (either with lateral eye movement or tapping) to start processing that target more effectively. At some point, once we feel you have processed the disturbing content and negative core belief as far as you are able, we will begin using the bilateral stimulation while you focus on the more positive belief in relation to the disturbing content.
When you come to see me for E.M.D.R. you can expect the process to take several sessions. We need to get to know one another, establish effective relaxation and containment techniques, identify a target/presenting problem and associated core beliefs before we can begin applying the bilateral stimulation.
Even after the session has ended, E.M.D.R. is thought to continue to process the material on which we have worked. It make take several sessions of bilateral stimulation around the target before you to start experiencing some relief.
Sometimes clients worry they are “doing E.M.D.R. wrong.” Everyone is different. Some people have a delayed reaction to E.M.D.R.. Others experience bodily sensations during the process as opposed to emotions or thoughts and vice versa. Some people come to see me with a long history of complex trauma that may take longer to process. I have also worked with clients on recent, single incident traumas. Other people come to me for issues causing them anxiety that is preventing them from performing at their full potential. Certain people seem to respond better to E.M.D.R. than others for reasons that are not always apparent.
Again, E.M.D.R. is just one of the tools I offer in my practice to assist my clients in living their best lives.
“…E.M.D.R. is phenomenal. Regardless of how, it feels like it’s awakened a more assertive facet of my personality.” – Client