“The past affects the present even without our being aware of it.”
― Francine Shapiro
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy is one of the leading models of treatment for trauma therapy.
EMDR can also be effective in treating:
"Why is EMDR so effective in treating trauma?"
When we experience trauma, it is like an overload to our nervous system and our brains are unable to fully process and store the incident properly in our long-term memory.
Instead, parts of the traumatic event end up stored in various areas of the brain easily available to the person in their current life. This is part of why people can experience triggers, flashbacks, or what we may call "reliving experiences." The brain cannot tell differentiate the past from the present so we feel and/or react to something as if the traumatic event is happening now.
The goal of EMDR is to locate, organize, and consolidate this information in the memory network so the brain can do it's job of filing it away as something that did happen instead of feeling like it is something that is happening right now.
Clients who may benefit from EMDR often struggle with:
Particular thoughts or images they just can't shake
Feelings of being stuck
Deep feelings of Shame or Guilt over the Past
Always feeling On guard
Trouble Building Healthy Relationships
Knowing how they should respond to challenges but often reacting in the moment
Chronic pain/health issues
Clients often feel they are able to get "unstuck" in life. In addition to this, EMDR Therapy also allows us to access information and awareness that may not be readily available to us because of the traumatic event. For example, someone may feel like they are Not Safe or that they I'm Not Good Enough based on the traumatic history. EMDR helps clear away the neural connections that have been formed causing these beliefs so we can access more adaptable ones such as I'm Safe Now or I'm Good As I Am.
EMDR Therapy helps our brains to separate the past from the present so that we can show up more calm, clear-headed, and in control of our feelings, thoughts, and responses to the world around us. Our EMDR therapists have undergone the gold standard of EMDR Therapy training having completed training approved by the EDMR International Association and/or Certified as an EMDR provider with EMDRIA.
Want to learn more about what it's like to work with an EMDR therapist?
Click below to watch a video by the EMDR International Association, as well as a video by the owner explaining her approach, or read the EMDR Therapy FAQ's section below:
Frequently Asked Questions about EMDR Therapy
Can EMDR help me if I don’t have “trauma?”
Yes. While EMDR was initially created and still primarily used as one of the most effective therapies for treating trauma, it has been found effective in helping clients struggling with anxiety, depression, phobias, and much more!
What’s a typical EMDR session like?
EMDR sessions typically range from 50-90 minutes depending on the therapist you are working with. Like any trauma therapy, EMDR can be extremely healing but also mentally and emotionally taxing. Because of this, we take great care and consideration in structuring sessions to maximize the healing benefits while also allowing you to complete each appointment feeling lighter and as positive as possible.
We’ve spent many years working with clients and have found 50-minute structured sessions with three main parts to be plenty of time to do effective trauma therapy that leaves you in a good mental/emotional space overall. The general structure is as follows but can and will be adjusted depending on your needs, for example, some folks may need more time in preparation phases while others may need more time in reprocessing phases. Nevertheless, the general process is as follows:
In the first part, you will spend approximately 10-20 minutes following up on and addressing any updates/ongoing life events or stressors to ensure you are heard, supported, and stabilized to make for the most effective EMDR work that day.
The second part takes approximately 20-30 minutes reprocessing your identified target event. This is where we “clear our” negative associations or experiences that come up in relationship to that event.
In the last part, your therapist will help you with closing down the session, following up on anything profound that came up and offering guided grounding and/or relaxation exercises if needed to ensure you leave the session in a good place overall.
I heard EMDR takes 8-12 sessions, is that true?
Yes and no. It’s true that clients can generally see and feel improvement within this timeframe. However, the extent to how that improvement looks (i.e., feeling less emotionally charged, reduced intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, etc.) will vary depending on each person’s history, current life stressors, and available coping tools as these can all impact the healing process.
A client with a complex trauma history versus a single event trauma will look quite different in terms of their healing though both are achievable given appropriate support and interventions. This is why we make it a point to address these factors each session to make the most of the time and work you’re doing.
How do I know if EMDR is working?
EMDR therapy is unlike talk therapy in the sense that assessing progress in talk therapy often involves conscious efforts to utilize learned skills when triggers happen. While this may be part of the process in the beginning, as clients move through the EMDR process they will often find themselves responding to stressful or previously triggering events unconsciously with more ease.
It’s more common for an EMDR client to meet with their therapist the following session describing how they were able to handle a situation well that generally would have been extremely difficult for them in the past. In other words, they didn’t have to work through their trigger as it was more so the trigger simply being removed. This can be extremely empowering and give hope to folks who sometimes wondered if things would ever change for them!
Can I do EMDR if can’t pinpoint a specific traumatic event?
Yes. While having an identified target memory to work on before entering therapy can expedite the process, it’s not necessary for you to know beforehand. Our therapists are highly skilled at working from an EMDR lens to begin assessing potential target memories from the first appointment. You and your therapist will discuss your history and life themes developing a treatment plan to work on that is specifically tailored to you, your needs, and treatment goals.
In some cases, the process of developing a treatment plan simply takes a few sessions. In other cases, therapists may help clients identify what potential negative core beliefs, feelings, and triggers they might be holding and work with them to explore the past to find related root events. These roots can then be used to create a plan to work on. In rarer and more complex cases, clients may be dealing with repressed memories. Our therapists are trained to carefully and efficiently work with these types of traumas as well.
Can EMDR Therapy be done virtually?
Yes. While it was long thought that the only way to do EMDR was in-person, Covid-19 caused many practitioners to go virtual. It was during this time of collective transition and need, that they found EMDR can be just as effective virtually as in-person. There are also many benefits to doing EMDR virtually such as reduced associated time and cost with travel, ability to offer more flexible scheduling, and having your own creature comforts when doing trauma work that can actually make the process run more smoothly in some cases.
We’re here to help you work through the past so you can live a happier, more fulfilling, and mindful life. Reach out to schedule an appointment with any of our EMDR therapists today!