Is EMDR Therapy Right For Me?

Written by Rachel H.

September 26, 2022

Perhaps you’ve heard of EMDR therapy or someone has recommended it but you’re not sure if it’s right for you. You’d like to learn more about this therapy whose acronym you keep mixing up with EDM (not the same thing, I promise), and how it might help you.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (a mouthful, I know). It uses bilateral stimulation (alternately stimulating the right and left sides of the body through touch, sound or movement) to help reprocess disturbing memories that may be contributing to the challenges you’re experiencing now.

While traditionally developed to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the 1980’s by Francine Shapiro, it has since been proven effective for many other mental health problems including:

EMDR therapy is a comprehensive, 8 step approach that helps you get to the root(s) of the challenges you’re experiencing in your daily life now by healing past painful memories, developing and strengthening new, positive beliefs about yourself and the world, and preparing you for future challenges. 

The eight phases of EMDR include:

  1. Taking a history of your key life experiences and events
  2. Building up your strengths and resources to prepare for reprocessing
  3. “Lighting up” key memories by noticing the thoughts, feelings, sensations and degree of disturbance
  4. Using bilateral stimulation to move through and “digest” the previously stuck pieces of the memories causing present-day distress
  5. Installing new, positive beliefs 
  6. Noticing and working through any disturbances in the body
  7. Finding closure after each session even if the memory is not fully reprocessed (for example, doing a relaxation technique)
  8. Re-evaluating your progress in each session, either continuing with a particularly target memory or moving to another one

Here’s some indications that EMDR Therapy might be helpful for you:

You’ve experienced something disturbing and are having a hard time moving on from it

If you’re experiencing symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks, nightmares or panic attacks, EMDR therapy may be right for you. Whether the trauma happened last week or several years ago, EMDR therapy can help your mind and body “unlock” and properly digest the feelings, body sensations and negative beliefs associated with it. 

You don’t want to talk in detail about your trauma 

EMDR therapy does not require you to talk about the details of your trauma(s). In fact, too much talking is discouraged during trauma reprocessing, as it can keep you in a more “thinking” rather than “feeling” state. Trauma tends to get stored in our bodies, and this is where EMDR can really help us get unstuck.

You’ve tried talk therapy and it hasn’t helped  

Perhaps you’ve been to therapy before and it hasn’t been helpful. Or you’ve found therapy helpful to a point, but notice that the same painful thoughts, feelings and relationship patterns keep showing up in your life. EMDR therapy goes beyond talk therapy in accessing the emotions, felt painful beliefs, and body sensations that can keep us stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought and behavior.

You’re ready to get to the root of your anxiety

Rather than frantically pulling at the weeds (symptoms) that keep popping up, EMDR can help you get to the root of what’s causing the symptoms in the first place. Often, memories or themes arise in the process of EMDR that your rational mind might have kept hidden away. In this way, EMDR can help to access, shine a light on and begin to shift the subconscious beliefs that may be holding you back. 

You have a feeling that what happened in your childhood is holding you back 

It’s important to remember that trauma does not just include the “big T” traumas that tend to first come to mind such as experiencing something life threatening, physical abuse or sexual assault. While EMDR is very effective for helping folks who’ve experienced those “big T” traumas, it can be just as effective for folks who have a nagging sense that what happened or didn’t happen in their childhood has something to do with the anxiety and relationship issues they’re experiencing today.

I’ve witnessed many of my clients access more compassion for their life experiences, heal relationship trauma and find freedom from the tyranny of anxiety and perfectionism through EMDR. If you think that EMDR therapy may be right for you, make sure that you look for a therapist who is trained and/or certified in EMDR. I am happy to provide a free consultation and answer any questions you may have.

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