You’ve probably heard of EMDR therapy if you are familiar with trauma work/are exploring therapy. It’s a popular option for those who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD that they have been unable to “get rid of” with other therapeutic approaches. I utilize a somatic and attachment based EMDR to assist clients who are ready to dive deep and help settle their nervous systems on their healing journey.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. It is a body-mind integrated therapy that has been proven to be highly effective for those who have experienced trauma.
EMDR therapy is founded on the basis that trauma interferes with our brain’s processing. This less than optimal storage process can lead to past memories feeling very present. Related or unrelated stimuli in the present can lead to clients reacting as they did at the time of trauma. The brain experiences the current, related event as if it were the past disturbing event.
EMDR is a comprehensive form of therapy that uses bilateral stimulation (in combination with CBT, trauma informed therapy, talk therapy, etc) to address the physiological storage of memory and how it informs experience. To simplify, the memory is re-opened and processed effectively, removing the maladaptive response (e.g. intense anger or quick startle) that was initially created by the high level of emotional arousal.
Have you ever realized that you weren’t really feeling your body (ex: feeling detached or numb)? Or maybe you’ve heard the phrase “where in your body do you feel that?” and had no idea what they were talking about?
Our mind and body are inherently connected. This is why babies cry and ball up their little fists and their faces scrunch up when they are hungry or upset. They are beautifully connected to their bodies and allow their bodies to help them communicate. If their needs are tended, they relax, but if they aren’t, they eventually give up and stop crying. This connection doesn’t end after infancy. If we are allowed to express and process our emotions then we maintain this connection well throughout our lifespan and are able to use our emotions to help inform us about who we are and how we are feeling, which allows us to live deeply authentic and fulfilling lives.
Because of this mind-body connection, treating developmental trauma (aka, any trauma that has taken place with a caregiver before the age of 18 on multiple occasions) demands a top down and bottom up approach. This means that not only should we be unlearning what is healthy vs. not healthy but also tending to our nervous system and allowing it to settle. Often times, even if you mind knows you are no longer in danger and are in a new situation, our nervous system doesn’t know. This results in continually feeling anxious or nervous all the time.
The specific type of EMDR that I utilize in my practice, developed and taught by the Personal Transformation Institute, takes a somatic (body-based) and attachment lens approach that is uniquely suited for developmental trauma. This means that instead of focusing on one memory, this approach allows us to delve deeper into where the core issue lies and honor the body along the way.
The short answer is everyone. The long answer is anyone who is cognitively and somatically ready based upon assessment that’s done in session. Another factor that indicates a client may benefit from EMDR is that they are continually returning to the same issue. Maybe it’s been months or years of processing the same core issue but in present moments they continually become flooded or overwhelmed and struggle to move through it.
EMDR will provide relief from the overwhelming physiological/body-based symptoms of a trauma memory as well as support healthy integration of an event. So if you find yourself continually struggling with feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or constantly thinking about the same issue, EMDR may be a good fit.
EMDR is hypnosis. The client is awake and alert during the entire session. The client has complete control of the entire session. Many safeguards are put in place so that, in the event someone does want to stop they are able to do so at any time.
EMDR recovers repressed memories. The brain is doing only what it is able to and feels comfortable doing. I know this sounds strange, but our brain is a fantastic protective tool. EMDR only assists the brain in reprocessing unstable processed memories. If the brain has locked away a memory, it has done so for a reason. This therapy will not unlock something that it is not ready for. Only time will do that.
The reprocessing phase begins in the first session. I have many clients anxious that they will be forced to relive their trauma in the first session. This is in no way true. It is a multi step process. There is a foundation that sets up a safe space by doing a thorough history before moving on to the reprocessing itself. The client feels comfortable with the therapy before it begins.
EMDR is for severe trauma. It can be used to work through anxiety, OCD, depression, and other maladaptive behaviors. These behaviors started somewhere and the belief is that if we return to where they started, they can be changed through that reprocessing. It does not have to be a PTSD situation.
EMDR is a “quick fix.” I hear this one a lot. “Let’s do EMDR so I can just get it over with.” You have to be ready, somatically and cognitively, to make good use of the EMDR process. My clients know that while we may begin the process of building resources and exploring goals, I will never move forward with reprocessing just because it sounds like a “quick” or “easy” fix.
What are the benefits of EMDR?
EMDR provides relief from persisting physiological and cognitive symptoms such as increased hyper vigilance and continuing to fixate on the same event. This approach to healing also allows for a deeper connection with your experiences at a quicker rate than a talk-based therapy alone can provide.
How fast does EMDR work?
It depends. Every person is different and has different needs. Additionally, just because we begin reprocessing that doesn’t mean we won’t move into another phase for awhile depending on what your needs are. All of these factors effect timelines but typically relief is achieved within a few months.
How much does EMDR cost?
Currently, I do not charge extra for EMDR sessions as they are a part of treatment depending on needs. My normal hourly fee applies to these sessions, $205 for 50 minutes or $307 for extended 90 minute sessions.
Have any other questions? Feel free to reach out and let’s chat!