What can you expect when you engage in EMDR therapy?
What is EMDR:
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a method that is the gold standard of trauma recovery. EMDR enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. EMDR is not exclusive to eye movements, any bilateral stimulation (audio, tapping) can also elicit the same healing response
How EMDR Will Help You:
In addition to trauma, EMDR can be used in different therapeutic situations like anxiety, substance use, and grief.
After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, physiological and physical distress is relieved, and negative self-beliefs are reformulated into adaptive beliefs.
These new associations result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.
Building The Therapeutic Relationship:
You will work with your therapist to identify coping skills and strengths you are already utilizing as well as introduce new strategies that will support you should any distress arise while engaged in EMDR. You will also work with your therapist to identify memories associated with negative beliefs associated with those memories that you wish to address.
EMDR Is a 8 Phase Process
The client and therapist build rapport and trust. The therapist and client review past events, current concerns, and future needs, and identify target adverse life experiences for processing.
To prepare for coping with any distress that may arise during the desensitization phase, the person in therapy selects a safe-place image that can provide stabilization and self-control as needed.
Together you will create a plan to address specific memories and issues that will support you in reaching your goals for therapy.
Your therapist will guide you using EMDR to reduce or resolve negative emotional responses that are rooted in past trauma and support you in replacing the associated negative beliefs with more adaptive beliefs that support healing trauma.
With the distressing event in mind, the client’s negative beliefs about himself or herself are recorded, evaluated, and measured. In contrast, a desirable positive belief is selected, and this belief is measured to determine how true it feels to the client. Physical symptoms are recorded as well.
Bilateral stimulation, in the form of eye movements, tones, or taps are used to reprocess the distressing event. The therapist will prompt you with a negative self belief, memory or body sensation and begin a set of bilaterals (about 20). Then, your therapist will check-in after each set to ask you what you are noticing, and ask about the level of disturbance (this will reduce throughout the session). You will continue this phase until the level of disturbance is greatly reduced.
The selected positive/adaptive cognition is the target of the bilateral stimulation in this phase. The therapist will check in periodically to see how true the desired belief feels to the client. You will continue this phase until the new belief feels true.
Any residual physical tension or distress indicates that the event is not fully processed, and the bilateral stimulation continues until that is resolved.
This phase will occur at the end of a session, regardless of whether or not the memory is fully processed. A complete sequence of EMDR therapy can take several sessions, and it is important to reach stabilization before the session ends. Closure can include guided imagery or discussion of the session.
Phase 8: Reevaluation
The next session begins here, to evaluate and measure the level of disturbance and the accuracy of the targeted positive belief. If the target remains unresolved, the session will resume with the desensitization phase.
Does EMDR erase memories?
EMDR does not erase your traumatic memories. Your traumatic past is part of your life experience, the goal is not to erase it but reduce its power over you. In effect, EMDR refocuses your brain. It helps you reduce the intensity of mental images and sensory experiences safely.
How does each phase take?
The number of sessions needed will vary depending on the severity of the trauma. You will go through each phase, however, not all phases may be used in one EMDR therapy session.
Will we do EMDR every session? Can I do EMDR in conjunction with other services?
While focusing on EMDR, it is best to focus primarily on EMDR for quicker results. However, depending on your needs/life events along the way, you and your therapist can certainly do talk therapy in conjunction.
Depending on the severity of the trauma, we recommend focusing on EMDR therapy before adding in adjunct services like couples therapy.
What if I decide my therapist is not a good fit?
You can decide in the first few sessions whether the person you see is a good fit for you.
If, after two or three sessions, you do not feel comfortable or you don’t feel you have a good working relationship with your therapist, it may be best to try someone else.
Remember, this is your investment in your mental health. Counselors want to know when something doesn’t feel right so we can adjust our course of action, or provide you with referrals for another therapist. Important: You will not hurt our feelings if you decide you want to end our therapeutic relationship.
Is it possible that I will feel worse after doing this therapy?
EMDR is specific to treating your trauma/adverse life experiences, so it might be painful along the way. However, EMDR does not require you to retell the whole event to your therapist. You are only required to tell your therapist as much info so they can keep track of the healing that is taking place in the session.
Much like physical therapy, sometimes the treatment can be painful, but you will feel much better when the process is complete.
How Will We Close Each Session:
At the end of each EMDR session, we will close with a relaxing exercise to soothe your brain and body before you leave. You will be given a log to fill out if you have any thoughts or sensations related to the work we are doing in between sessions.
How will I know when I have completed the process?
The traumatic event will start to be desensitized and will at the very least be less emotionally and physically distressing.
Brain: Your brain will no longer be emotionally distressed when the traumatic event is recalled
Body: Your body will no longer experience uncomfortable physical symptoms like increased heart rate, hypervigilance, sweating, etc. when the disturbing event is recalled
Negative self-thoughts: Your negative core beliefs about self, such as “it was my fault”, “I am unlovable”, etc. will be resolved.