What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy is a phased treatment approach that tackles past events, current issues, and prospects for the future.
EMDR aims to address traumatic memories that have not been properly stored or processed, as well as the way in which associated emotions are stored in the brain. In EMDR we often refer to these as “unprocessed” or “blocked” memories that contribute to an individual’s distress. The therapist guides them using bilateral stimulation techniques such as eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones, to assist in processing these traumatic memories. The ultimate goal is to reduce the intensity of disturbance related to emotions that arise when these memories are triggered. EMDR then helps to unlock and integrate adaptive information, so you can gain new insights and perspectives on the traumatic experiences. This helps you to develop healthier coping mechanisms and responses, ultimately leading to a more positive and adaptive way of functioning.
EMDR was developed in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist, to treat PTSD. Since then, EMDR has evolved as an evidence-based treatment for trauma and other various mental health challenges. The mind can often heal itself naturally, in the same way as the body does. Much of this natural coping mechanism occurs during sleep, particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The theory behind EMDR is that the eye movements in EMDR induce a similar brain state to that occurring during REM sleep. During REM sleep, there is an increase in heart rate, eye movement, and breathing. REM sleep is thought to be necessary for memory consolidation, revitalizing brain chemical functions, and overall psychological well-being.
The protocol will remain consistent, but believe it or not, every EMDR therapist has their own unique style, focus, and approach. My clinical focus lies in trauma-related issues (such as sexual assault, childhood trauma, combat, and singular traumatic events), anxiety disorders, depression disorders, and attachment-based trauma. In my EMDR approach, I place a strong emphasis on the somatic mind-body connection, attachment-focus, and parts work/ego-state training, if needed, blended with other trauma-informed practices such as Mindfulness.
I understand that everyone’s journey is different. I offer consultation calls to help you explore whether EMDR is the appropriate therapeutic approach for your needs and help address any inquiries you may have.
I initially became EMDR trained in 2015 and became EMDR Certified through the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) in 2022. As a lifelong learner, I have since pursued advanced training opportunities in order to enhance my professional growth and make meaningful contributions to the well-being of others.
Basic trained via EMDR Consulting, Roy Kiessling, LISW
EMDRIA Certified via Chugach Counseling & Consulting, Stacey Brown, LPC
-Parts/Ego State work in EMDR Therapy via Andrew Seubert, LMHC, NCC
-EMDR and Attachment-Focused Trauma Therapy for Adults (AFTT-A) via Ann Potter, Ph.D. & Debra Wesselmann, MS, LIMHP
Commonly Asked Questions
EMDR therapy is not limited to treating trauma-related issues. It is widely recognized for addressing issues related to:
- Sexual/Emotional/Physical Abuse Trauma
- Substance Abuse
- Phobias and fears
- Chronic Pain
- Performance Anxiety
- Self-esteem issues
- Religious Trauma
- Childhood Trauma
- Grief and Loss
- Sleep Disturbance
Please keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and EMDR may be beneficial for various other concerns. However, certain conditions, such as psychosis or severe dissociation, or a recent suicide attempt, may not be suitable for EMDR therapy. A consultation call with a EMDR therapist can help assess if EMDR is the right fit for you, given your unique circumstances.
The length of EMDR therapy varies depending on several factors, including the complexity of the issues being addressed and the individual’s response to treatment. While some people may experience significant relief in a few sessions, others may require more extensive treatment over several months or even longer. We can discuss and determine the appropriate duration based on your specific needs in or after the initial assessment.
During an EMDR session, we identify and target specific memories or experiences that contribute to your distress. Using bilateral stimulation techniques, such as eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones, EMDR helps process these memories, reducing their negative impact and promoting adaptive resolution. I help guide you through this process while providing support and ensuring your safety.
EMDR can be effectively adapted for telehealth sessions. I have been providing EMDR via telehealth since the pandemic started in 2020. Instead of in-person bilateral stimulation, remote alternatives like eye movement techniques with a therapist’s guidance through video conferencing or handheld devices with vibrations can be utilized. We discuss protocols and strategies that best fit you to ensure effective EMDR therapy through telehealth.
No, EMDR is not like hypnosis. While both approaches aim to alleviate distress, they differ in their techniques and objectives. EMDR focuses on processing and reprocessing traumatic memories or distressing experiences to promote healing and adaptive resolution while hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility often used for behavior modification or relaxation purposes.
If you’re struggling with the effects of past traumatic events, disturbing memories, or ongoing emotional distress, EMDR might be for you. However, it’s important to remember that not all therapeutic approaches work the same for everyone. Additionally, certain conditions, such as psychosis or severe dissociation, or a recent suicide attempt, may not be suitable for EMDR therapy.
Determining if EMDR is right for you is best done through a consultation or an intake with an EMDR therapist. They will assess your specific needs, discuss your treatment goals, and evaluate whether EMDR is an appropriate approach for addressing your concerns. If you have a primary therapist, it is important to have an open and honest discussion with your therapist to determine the best course of action for your mental health.
If you’d like to schedule a consultation with me, I provide a free 20-minute consultation via telephone or televideo.
EMDR has a significant body of research supporting its effectiveness. Numerous studies have demonstrated its efficacy in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related symptoms. Research also indicates its positive outcomes in various other mental health conditions. EMDR is recognized as an evidence-based treatment by reputable organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
After an EMDR session, individuals may experience a range of responses. It is common to feel tired, emotionally drained, or have vivid dreams. However, many people also report a noticeable reduction in distressing symptoms, increased clarity, and a sense of relief or resolution. It is important to engage in self-care activities and allow yourself time to process the session’s effects at your own pace. My EHR allows a secured journaling feature where I encourage you to write down any new insights and/or symptoms that may arise in between sessions so we can re-evaluate and discuss in our follow-up session.
I value adjunct therapy. If you are currently seeing a therapist, it is advisable to discuss your interest in EMDR with them first. They can provide guidance and assess whether incorporating EMDR into your existing therapy is appropriate or refer you to an EMDR therapist if needed. Collaborating with your current therapist may also involve me and ensures continuity of care and a comprehensive approach to address your specific needs.