I have been trained in EMDR therapy by EMDRIA, and I have completed 50 hours of in-depth training and 10 hours of consultation with an EMDRIA approved consultant.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an evidence-based therapy for reprocessing trauma, strengthening internal resources, and healing old wounds from the past. Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 80’s and 90’s, EMDR is becoming one of the most sought after healing modalities in the field of psychotherapy due to its efficacy and reliability as a healing practice. Using bilateral stimulation (switching sensory input between right and left sides of the body) with eye movements, tactile stimulation, or sounds, the human nervous system is able to adaptively integrate past experiences that may have negatively affected present behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Although EMDR was originally developed for treating PTSD, it has also proven to be effective for a variety of diagnoses and conditions, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, OCD, etc.
EMDR is considered a kind of “somatic therapy” in which it is assumed that the both the brain and body’s neural circuitry are involved in the storage of memories. In the case of trauma or other psychological disturbance, the memories of disturbing life events from the past are maladaptively stored in an incomplete, fragmented, or non-integrated way that results in the emergence of dysfunctional behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs. PTSD is frequently accompanied by various bodily symptoms, due to the activation of the body’s survival circuitry, such as muscle tension, unexplained pain, cardiovascular activation, shallow/incomplete breathing, or unusual sensations like buzzing, spinning, pins-and-needles, or even numbness in certain parts of the body. One of the goals of EMDR is to reestablish awareness of the individual’s various senses and to reduce painful or challenging bodily sensations.
The process of EMDR therapy unfolds in multiple stages, with an emphasis on client stability and functioning during the duration of treatment. Before going into reprocessing/desensitization work, inner strengths and resources are developed. Establishing a sense of safety is a key feature of the EMDR process, by means of the “Safe/Calm State” exercise, in which the client defines a state of mind and emotions that allows them to feel grounded and calm in the present moment. Another key tool of EMDR is the Resource Development and Installation protocol. This involves slower bilateral stimulation and a focus on highlighting forgotten or neglected strengths and gifts inside the person, or developing new ones. When the client and therapist both agree that the client is ready, the reprocessing work of past woundings and trauma can begin. A container or grounding exercise is practiced at the end of each reprocessing session to establish client stability and safety between EMDR sessions. The client is also asked to keep track of changes to their thoughts, emotions, triggers, bodily sensations, and dreams or other inner visual imagery between sessions. Clients can usually expect more rapid progress and decrease of symptoms as compared to other traditional forms of psychotherapy.
While EMDR is effective and generally regarded as safe for a wide variety of conditions, it can be risky for individuals who present with high levels of dissociation or psychosis, or who may have a history of seizures. That is not to say that EMDR therapy is impossible with such individuals, but that extra care must be taken in such cases to prevent the therapy from over-activating the client’s trauma or symptoms. If you have any of the conditions previously mentioned, we can discuss options of treatment or how we can adapt the EMDR process to suit your needs in a safe way.