EMDR Part II

photo credit: kevin dooley

photo credit: kevin dooley

The video at the end of this post offers a pretty good introduction to EMDR.  However, it is a bit outdated, and I have a few caveats to add:

EMDR: Visual, Auditory, and Sensory

Since the production of this broadcast, it has been discovered that the bilateral stimulation used in EMDR, the back and forth experience of EMDR, can be both auditory and sensory, as well as visual.  In other words, you don't necessarily have to follow fingers with your eyes; in fact, I rarely use that technique with clients.  For some clients, watching a wand or fingers pass in front of their faces can be too distracting, and can actually prevent them from accessing the feeling state we're trying to process; with them, I would get creative and use one of the many other options for bilateral stimulation; my decision of what method to use is largely based on the client's preference.  

Do Not Try This at Home

Please.  As they say in the video, EMDR is a very strong, and deceptively simple therapeutic tool.  It might be tempting to try it on your own, but I strongly recommend that you don't.  The deeper the trauma the greater the risk in trying to process it alone, and emotional neural networks almost always link up in unexpected ways.  In other words, you don't know how deep the processing will go until you're in it, and if you're in it alone, you may not be able to access the reasoning that will help you resolve it.  The therapist and therapy room are necessary safeties to help you contain the experience, and move through it both quickly, and completely.  I have had many clients work on seemingly easy issues that ended up linking to deep traumas; my presence and expertise helped those clients relieve their suffering much more quickly and easily than they could have done on their own.  There are also ways of distancing yourself from the traumatic memory that are very difficult, if not impossible, to access yourself when processing; EMDR really does take two people.

Beware of youtube charlatans!

I hesitated to post this video because it would be all too easy for people seeing it to follow their curiosity about EMDR down a youtube rabbit hole.  No responsible therapist is going to try to offer EMDR through youtube.  EMDR is an intersubjective process: what I do as the therapist will affect your EMDR journey, and your journey will affect what interventions I choose to do, which will then affect your EMDR journey, etc. until we're done.  You can't have this experience through youtube; there can be no back and forth process.

I also think that most responsible therapists won't even show very much of an EMDR session online.  It's true that seeing someone else's session can be inspiring; it's wonderful to see how quickly and thoroughly painful memories can be resolved.  But EMDR sessions can also look quite dramatic, and be needlessly scary if you're new to EMDR, and looking at the sessions from an outside perspective.  I believe it's far better for someone's first experience of EMDR to be resourcing work: it's a positive way of seeing the power of EMDR, exploring a client's facility with it, providing a lot of information to the therapist, and is done in a safe way and in a safe space.

EMDR is useful for more than just PTSD

EMDR has broader applications than are implied in the video.  Yes, EMDR is great for working with PTSD, war veterans, sexual assault survivors, child abuse survivors, etc.  That said, EMDR has branched well beyond mere PTSD treatment.  It also works incredibly well with addiction recovery, with positive psychology (creating a happier, and more connected outlook on life), with important decision-making, and many other issues.  This is another reason it is important to do EMDR with a professional practitioner; we have a deep understanding of how the process works, and can use EMDR creatively to help you get the results you're looking for.

Having said all of that,

I do believe the video offers a lot of useful information, especially for people just beginning to explore the possibilities EMDR has to offer.