I love it when people ask me about EMDR. Usually the conversation starts something like…”EMDR? That’s some kind of trauma therapy, right?”
The answer to that is yes, and also so much more interesting and complex! Though some people have a vague idea of what EMDR is, even more people I talk to have never heard of it. So let’s chat about what it is, why I trained and became a Certified EMDR Therapist through the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), and how it can help you.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (don’t worry, that won’t be on the quiz). It is a structured therapy process that helps people find relief from traumatic experiences that cause them distress. Though it started out using a certain kind of eye movements (hence the name) to facilitate the healing process, our understanding has since expanded to know there are different ways to get the same results. Some people still incorporate eye movements, and others use things like physical tapping (using a device that buzzes, or using your hands to tap back and forth on your arms or legs), and sounds. Though this type of “bi-lateral stimulation” (eye movements/tapping) is one of the things that makes EMDR different from other therapy interventions, it’s really not as weird as it sounds…especially once you get used to it!
There are different kinds of trauma, and different kinds of trauma symptoms, and EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating pretty much all of them. That is especially true when EMDR is provided by a knowledgeable and skilled therapist who understands the complexities of trauma, how it impacts our brains, bodies, and relationships, and how we adapt to survive it.
While EMDR was initially developed and researched as a method of trauma treatment, more and more research is showing that it can help with other things as well, such as anxiety, depression, and self-esteem challenges. That makes sense to me, because when we explore our past experiences, many of those things are rooted in chronic stress, or chronic “little t” trauma (trauma that is not life-threatening).
To learn more about the process of EMDR, visit the EMDRIA website.
Why I Use EMDR
I decided to train in EMDR because I realized early in my therapy career that nearly every person has some type of trauma. (Or, another way to think about it is that most people have things that cause them distress, to the point where it impacts how they feel about themselves and others, whether or not they call it “trauma.”) EMDR has a huge body of research to support it, and has been developed over the past 30+ years to become a leading evidenced-based treatment. It’s effective, the results are long-lasting, and over and over I see it change people’s lives. I believe in it so much, I even attended EMDR therapy myself!
After completing the initial 50 hour training to provide EMDR to clients, I continued to seek other education, and worked with a Certified Consultant to ensure I was using the method as appropriately and effectively as possible. That process, along with advanced training, and recommendations from colleagues, allowed me to become an EMDRIA Certified EMDR Therapist. I sought certification because I know how scary it can be for clients to even think about going to therapy, especially when they are interested in healing trauma. I want clients to be able to trust and feel safe that I will work to provide them with the best care, and that I have a robust knowledge base and practical experience that informs our work together.
How It Can Help You
EMDR can help reduce or eliminate distressing memories, body sensations, thoughts, and feelings. I frequently hear clients say things like, “I don’t know why I keep doing the same things over and over.” “I don’t want to think about this stuff.” “I don’t want to be scared anymore.” “I don’t want to keep acting like this.” “I’m overwhelmed.” “I hate feeling this way.” Those are common phrases because of how traumatic experiences are stored in our brains, and how memories of those experiences activate an unconscious biological response in our nervous systems. It’s not our fault that we experienced trauma, and it’s not our fault our bodies respond the way they do to trauma. We do have a choice in getting help to heal from it, though, and EMDR is a great option for many people.