EMDR Therapy: Healing from Traumatic Events
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an approach that can help people resolve traumatic memories, anxiety, PTSD, grief, loss, and other difficult issues.
EMDR seems like a very simple technique; however, it can have profound results. There are MRI studies that show how EMDR therapy creates changes in the brain, as people resolve traumatic issues. EMDR therapy can greatly lower the distress associated with a traumatic event.
Traumatic memories or any unresolved difficulties can greatly affect your life. I trained in EMDR in order to better help people heal from traumatic events and other difficulties. I initially saw its effectiveness when I used EMDR to help heal my own past trauma.
My hope is that EMDR therapy can help people live more joyful, fulfilled lives.
EMDR Therapy Can Work Quickly
EMDR can help some people resolve issues more quickly than conventional therapy. EMDR was groundbreaking, in that healing from traumatic events no longer had to take many years. I've seen people make significant changes after just one session of EMDR.
Of course, everyone is different, and the same approach won’t work for everyone. Within a few sessions, you would know if EMDR is useful for you.
EMDR can be used in brief therapy (maybe six sessions) especially if you are healing from a single event, or in longer-term therapy if you are healing from multiple traumatic events.
Combining EMDR With Talk Therapy or Counseling
Often, I use a combination of EMDR and talk therapy. You can decide how much of the session you want to use for talking about issues and how much time you want to use for EMDR. You’re in control with EMDR.
It’s okay to spend the first few appointments talking about issues/goals and getting to know one another. I would never want to push someone into trying EMDR. We can use other approaches, if you are not interested in EMDR.
With many people, I use EMDR during every appointment or almost every appointment. With other people, I use it occasionally or not at all. We can talk about what works best for you.
What Issues Can EMDR Help With?
EMDR therapy was initially developed in 1987 to help people heal from traumatic memories. Since then, therapists have found several other effective uses of EMDR. It can help with the following:
Healing from childhood abuse or neglect
Healing from other difficulties (such as a car wreck, marital affair, shocking event, etc.)
I am happy to answer questions about EMDR and let you know if I think it would be helpful for your particular situation. Please feel free to call me at (650) 429-8224 or email me at email@example.com. You can also schedule a free phone consultation with me.
With EMDR therapy, I start by making sure that people have ways to calm down and relax. If needed, I can teach you several techniques to feel calmer and more grounded.
There are eight phases of EMDR therapy (history taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization (“EMDR”), strengthening the positive belief/goal, body scan, closure, and re-evaluation). The fourth phase, desensitization, consists of moving your eyes back and forth, holding alternating buzzers, or listening to alternating sounds while focusing on a traumatic memory (or other issue). Although it sounds quite simple, most people report feeling much better afterwards, both immediately afterwards and over the long term. The benefits seem to be permanent.
My Experience with EMDR Therapy
Since 2011, I have used EMDR often, because I am amazed at how well it works. It is the primary approach that I use.
More recently, I learned the flash technique, which is part of EMDR.
EMDR Information Handout
The following text comes from a handout that I give to everyone before starting EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I wrote it to explain the basic process of EMDR and several cautions to be aware of.
Please tell me about any medical health conditions (especially ones that could be exacerbated by stress). Also, tell me if you have eye pain, eye problems, seizures, or if you are taking any medications.
I cannot predict or guarantee what the results of EMDR will be. Distressing emotions and memories can come up during and after EMDR. It is important to have enough resources and support before starting EMDR.
The timing of EMDR is important. It’s not recommended to start EMDR before or during an important project or when you are too busy. Healing and practicing relaxation skills takes time and energy.
If you are involved in a potential legal issue, please tell me about it and consult with your attorney before starting EMDR.
“When a disturbing event occurs, it can get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. EMDR seems to stimulate the information and allows the brain to reprocess the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep - the eye movements (tones, tactile) may help to reprocess the unconscious material. It is your own brain that will be doing the healing and you are the one in control.” (EMDR Institute manual)
There are eight phases of EMDR: History taking, Preparation, Assessment, Desensitization (“EMDR”), Strengthening positive belief/goal, Body scan, Closure, and Re-evaluation.
During EMDR, you are in control. You can stop at any time.
You cannot do EMDR wrong. We can work with whatever comes up. During EMDR, I will frequently ask for a brief description of what you are noticing at that moment. Just let me know what you’re noticing right then. That will let me know how to proceed.
Sometimes, people start with one memory and focus only on that memory. Other times, people start with one memory and find other memories, emotions, and thoughts coming up. Either way is okay. Occasionally, I will ask about the initial memory.
Once we start processing one set of memories, it’s best to finish processing those memories before starting on a new issue/memory. This lessens the chance of feeling overwhelmed.
During EMDR, dual awareness can be helpful- knowing you are safe in my office and remembering the past. Also, it can be helpful to imagine the traumatic images on a small screen (as far away as necessary) or as if the images are scenery as you ride by on a train.
During EMDR, there is no need to try to consciously control or force a positive solution. Usually, it is better to let whatever happens happen.
After an EMDR session, processing may continue. You might have new insights, thoughts, feelings, or dreams; if so, just notice them and make a note in your journal or TICES log. We can work on them together. Use the safe place exercise, container exercise, and other relaxation techniques when needed. Call me if necessary. If I am unavailable, the Crisis Line is 1-855-278-4204. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
After an EMDR session, please be careful walking down the stairs, driving, riding a bike, etc. Make sure you are grounded and safe before doing so.
For more information, www.emdr.com and www.emdria.org are good resources. Also, Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, the therapist who developed EMDR, is another way to learn more about EMDR. Please discuss any concerns or questions with me.
Practice relaxation exercises daily so that you are able to calm down and relax when needed. The more you practice them, the easier they are to do. Here is a quick reminder of some potential relaxation techniques:
Safe place – Imagine your safe place whenever you want to calm down.
Container – Put any painful emotions or thoughts in the container, knowing that you can work through them when you are ready.
Deep breathing – Breathe in deeply, allowing your abdomen to expand as you inhale. Breathe out fully. Repeat several times.
Feet, back/legs, or hands – Notice your feet on the floor. Or your back/legs against the chair. Or your fingers touching your thumbs. Or your hands touching each other.
5 things – Visually notice 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 things in the room. Or 5 sounds?
Breathing meditation – Meditate by focusing on your breath, without needing to change your breath. Or meditate by saying “breathing in” & “breathing out." Or notice and count your breaths.
Breathing shift – Notice your breathing. Remember when you felt calmer and allow your breath to match that calmer pattern. Slower.
Light stream – Imagine unlimited healing light flowing down through you, permeating any difficulties, and washing away problems.
Spiral – Imagine the difficulty as spiraling clockwise or counterclockwise. Overlay the opposite spiral. Gently change the direction of the spiral.
Grounding – Feel your feet on the floor/ground. Imagine roots connecting you to the earth. Allow the earth to hold and transform any troubles.
If you’d prefer this information in pdf form- EMDR info handout.pdf
Links for More Information about EMDR Therapy
EMDR International Association: EMDR session information
Book suggestion: Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro (EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro.)
Therapy Office in Sunnyvale
My office is in Sunnyvale, California on Wolfe Rd., near El Camino Real (also close to Santa Clara, Cupertino, and Mountain View). Parking is easy; there is a large parking lot.
1021 S. Wolfe Rd., Suite 255
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
I am a therapist/counselor in Sunnyvale, California. I work with adults, teenagers, and children. (LMFT Lic. # LMFT40414)