Updated: 2 days ago
I am a licensed therapist that is trained to provide Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment. Not only am I trained in EMDR, but in the past I worked with an EMDR therapist to process my own childhood trauma. I thought that it would be helpful to share my experience for anyone who is hesitant to do the work.
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a clinically proven intervention for processing trauma. Basically, trauma, mild or complex, can become locked in neural networks in the brain. When a distressing event is stored this way, you will continue to get triggered repeatedly because all new material that you experience links back to the old memory. EMDR allows processing of new information to move into these neural networks, with information from other more adaptive neural networks already inside your brain. The networks begin “firing” again, allowing trauma to process.
How does EMDR work?
To unlock the trauma, EMDR uses bi-lateral stimulation (a fast back and forth movement). You decide the type of bi-lateral stimulation you prefer, based on options given you by your EMDR therapist. You might follow the clinician’s fingers with your eyes, have the clinician tap on your knees, follow blinking lights on a lightbar, or hold pulsating devices.
What does EMDR feel like?
I feel EMDR is like giving birth. It can be a painful process, but after the baby, or the EMDR target is pushed out or desensitized, you only think about the beautiful baby in your arms. With EMDR, it is a distressing process because the clinician drops you into neural networks that hold your trauma. Your therapist will be with you the entire time you are going through this process, and will make sure you are in a safe place to experience this.
Trained EMDR therapists follow a protocol, which focuses on:
• A disturbing image of the event
• Negative thoughts you believe about yourself, due to the stressful event such as: “I am dirty” or “I am unloved.”
• Positive thoughts you want to have about yourself after processing the trauma--“I am loveable” “I am strong.”
• Emotions and body sensations connected to the traumatic event that you continue to feel present day
By using this protocol and having you follow a fast back and forth movement, it can make you feel that you are reliving your traumatic event, and in the moment, might seem unbearable (just like giving birth). But once you push through, adaptive and positive information processes in your brain, and you feel like a reborn person. The volume is turned down on the painful event, and you find that your life moves
forward—no longer making you feel “stuck.”
How long does EMDR take?
EMDR is an 8-stage treatment therapy. You will be required to meet certain criteria before readiness to process trauma. Having a strong therapeutic relationship, a solid support system, good coping skills, no suicidal ideation, and no active substance abuse are very important in readiness to treat trauma. Because EDMR can make the experience intense at first, it is very important to be able to use coping skills independently.
Am I ready for EMDR?
You do not have to come to therapy equipped with a toolbox full of coping mechanisms necessary for processing. Therapy sessions can enhance coping skills already within you and add some new ones. Your therapist will help you build new internal resourcing and visualization tools, so you are “well resourced” and feel confident to embark on your EMDR journey.
How I felt after EMDR
My experience with EMDR as a client and as a therapist was liberating. I am reminded daily that trauma does not have to control your life. EMDR is a highly successful treatment that I firmly believe in. Every week, I witness clients finding freedom from the intrusiveness of trauma. In hopes to explain EMDR on a personal level, look for more upcoming blogs on this topic.
Kristen Dammer is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist at Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Kristen specializes in working with birth trauma, fetal loss/miscarriage, and perinatal mood disorders. Follow Catalyss Counseling on Facebook or LinkedIn.