From a patient’s perspective it is difficult to know what kind of therapy methods might work for you when you are looking for a psychotherapist.  On top of that therapists typically blend in different styles of therapy to fit their beliefs and approach further confusing the issue. In this article we will discuss three things you  need to know if you are looking for EMDR Therapy. 

  1. What is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is an evidence based way to use bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tapping, and tones) in congruence with an image, emotion, and negative cognition that targets a distressing feeling or memory to create rapid therapeutic effects. Traumas and adverse life experiences can create issues with how we actually process and encode experiences. Disruption in our processing and encoding of events typically leads to reminders of that event causing us distress. A quick example of this is being bit by a dog as a child causing us to fear all dogs. A person sees a dog on a show, hears a bark, gets surprised by a dog, etc… and becomes distressed. EMDR would allow us to target the original memory of being bit or any present fears to target and quickly process. 

  1. Fast is not easy

EMDR therapy can produce rapid treatment effects and is growing in the awareness of the general population. One of the main things I see when people come into therapy is wanting to see results quickly. This is understandable due to therapy being an investment in resources, time, and significant emotional energy. However fast is not easy. EMDR therapy takes time to prepare for, is significantly distressing, and is not appropriate for everyone. Oftentimes patients are surprised at the level of intensity of EMDR therapy and can feel accomplished through facing their distress directly. EMDR therapy is intense, creates rapid treatment effects, and works. But we need to realize that this comes at the cost of a high emotional and stress demand from the patient. 

  1. Working with the stress of EMDR

EMDR therapy is stressful but that doesn’t mean we need to shy away from it. It means that it needs to happen in the correct context. The three main contextual factors for successful EMDR therapy that you need to know is your ability to ground yourself from intense emotions, the level of life stress you are experiencing,  and your level of trust with the therapist. Grounding skills are taught in therapy and allow us to move from distressing to calmer states. It is critical to have at least one strong grounding skill to make sure you have a tool to work with intense emotions for EMDR therapy. The level of life stress is critical due to EMDR therapy being a considerable stressor. Our bodies and minds can only handle so much stress before we start to break down. Make sure to address life stressors to a reasonable degree and consult with your chosen therapist. Your level of trust with the therapist is critical for your success with general therapy and to weather the intensity of emotions in EMDR therapy. People typically experience a lot of strong emotions and images that come as a surprise to them. If we trust our therapist we are able to explore and contain these experiences more effectively. 

EMDR therapy is evidence based, powerful, and should be given its proper respect for the desired outcomes. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out for a free consultation if you or someone you know would like to engage in EMDR therapy at Integrated Health Systems.