What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing. EMDR mimics the REM sleep cycle. It is during this nightly cycle that your brain sorts all the information from the day and processes it, stores it, or discards it if you don’t need it.
When something really disturbing or traumatic happens, the brain stores this information in a secure place in order to protect the ego. However, in doing so, the trauma remains segmented and cannot use current information to process and relieve symptoms. Plus, even though the brain has pretty good storage containers, they aren’t leak-proof, and uncomfortable stuff often seeps out. This oozing, uncomfortable information may not only surface in the form of dreams and memories, but could also manifest as physical symptoms, or unexplained emotional outbursts.
EMDR first calms the “fight or flight” response center in the brain so we can then effectively process the trauma and re-organize the feelings and memories so they don’t have the same impact on you as before.
It is NOT hypnosis, nor can it “erase” your memories. It just desensitizes you from re-living your trauma over and over again. (Most people report that the memories and stress become “fuzzy”.) And EMDR does this much, much quicker than traditional talk-therapy. Phew!
How Does it Work?
EMDR is an evidence-based treatment modality that allows us to access the stored traumatic event, identify physical symptoms, and combine it with current information to help relieve/extinguish symptoms much quicker than traditional talk therapy.
During sessions, I help you mimic REM sleep by asking you to follow a focus point (a pen, for example) with your eyes. We complete a series of back and forth eye movements, which then helps clear the storage channels in your brain. As the mental, physical, and emotional channels are cleared, we process the information, combine the data with new, current information, and then re-file them appropriately.
Here’s what our time together will look like:
- During the first session, we will briefly discuss your history and symptoms, discuss EMDR in a bit more detail, test the process, and begin with resource development, which means we will create a calm, soothing, “happy place” so you leave each session feeling relaxed and have a tool for when you are triggered outside our sessions. (I know, a “happy place” sounds cheesy, but it works and is necessary.)
- We will then start EMDR sessions. How many sessions do you need? I get asked this A LOT! It depends. I have had some clients make drastic improvements in as little as 2 sessions. Some take up to 10. (Trust me, I do wish I could read your brain and give you an exact number.) But we always end each session by containing any unfinished business so you aren’t left ‘hanging’ per se.
- Sessions run about 75 minutes, depending on where we are in the process. With EMDR, you don’t want to cut it short just because the hour is up.
- You will be asked to keep a written log throughout your journey which is helpful for post-session issues that may arise, to account for progress, and/or identify stuck patterns. Plus, as much as you would like to think that you will “remember” these details, your brain just can’t hold everything.
- I also recommend one final session approximately one month after completion of the EMDR process (can be done in-person or online) as a follow-up service.
Here are some of the results of my clients’ report…
- It (the disturbing memory) is “fuzzy” now, and when I try to think about it, I can’t really bring a disturbing feeling up.
- I feel calmer, more relaxed, happier.
- My fear is gone.
- I know it happened, but I don’t feel the anxiety and tension in my body anymore.
- I am happier and am surprised that I am doing things differently now.
- My relationship with ___________ is better.
What is EMDR is NOT
EMDR is not brainwashing. I cannot put any memories or thoughts into your head. Those things are already there. As a matter of fact, I do very little talking throughout the process.
EMDR is not hypnosis. I cannot make you do things you don’t know you are doing (like jumping on one foot and clucking like a chicken). Plus, this really wouldn’t make good use of therapeutic time.
EMDR is not a religion, witchcraft, or new-age production. It is based on science.