What is it?
EMDR or Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is an eight-phased body-based therapy that is different from traditional talk therapy. When a client experiences difficult or traumatic life events, it may become hard to process the event and recover from resulting negative beliefs or mental health struggles. EMDR helps the brain process these events in a safe manner so that the events are no longer significantly triggering or disrupting daily life.
EMDR focuses heavily on core beliefs and how they relate to traumatic or distressing life experiences. Core beliefs are ways we think about ourselves that feel core to who we are. Examples include: I'm not good enough, I'm not safe, I have to be in control, I'm powerless, I'm alone, I'm trapped, and more. Core beliefs are often born out of traumatic experiences in childhood but can surface at any point in life.
EMDR was created by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980s and has since become a leader in evidence-based psychotherapies for treating trauma. There is also substantial research that suggests EMDR is effective for grief, depression, phobias, anxiety, distressing life experiences, and other mental health disorders.
How does it work?
EMDR trained and/or certified clinicians are the only therapists approved to provide EMDR therapy. EMDR accesses your brain's memory neural pathways through bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation (BLS) is a completely safe and effective tool of EMDR that is used to activate both left and right hemispheres of the brain. Essentially, your brain hemispheres are activated through tapping your body or receiving auditory, tactile, or visual stimulation (based on client preference). When using BLS, the client is directed to identify and remember life events that need to be processed. Overall, clients can expect that their brain will move towards resolution of the difficult life event when using EMDR.
EMDR has no set timeline or set amount of sessions. There is no right or wrong way to respond to EMDR. Before processing traumatic or stressful experiences with BLS, individuals work with their therapists to develop resources or enhanced coping skills to help regulate the nervous system. These resources are used frequently in sessions and at the conclusion of sessions to help further regulate emotions and body sensations. Clients can utilize their resources in between sessions if they feel it's necessary. Additionally, the emphasis on client-therapist relationship remains critical for EMDR work--as establishing safety and trust within the therapeutic alliance allows individuals to feel more comfortable transitioning into the processing phase.
How can I expect to feel after an EMDR session?
It is typical to feel tired after a processing session of EMDR. Because the BLS stimulates both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, your brain is working extra hard without you consciously recognizing it. Some individuals feel tired during sessions while others recognize they're more sleepy after sessions. In addition to feeling more tired, it is possible to experience minor headaches from EMDR as well as feeling slightly more emotionally raw or emotionally heightened. This is the case with any trauma processing work, whether through EMDR or other forms of trauma therapy. EMDR therapist places heavy emphasis on self-care on EMDR processing days. This may look like more rest, higher water intake, exercise, or whatever an individual feels is helpful to replenish their energy.
Any client of any age who is ready to address and process life events in therapy are appropriate for EMDR. Clients who have not experienced clinically traumatic events are also appropriate for this treatment. EMDR is effective for grief, depression, phobias, anxiety, distressing life experiences, and other mental health disorders. EMDR can be done in person or virtually depending on the client's preference and the therapist's assessment of appropriateness for the mode of treatment.
What are the benefits?
There are several benefits to EMDR. The premise of EMDR is that it has the potential to fully resolve traumas. This does not mean that we forget about traumatic experiences, but rather that EMDR helps to desensitize individuals to traumatic and stressful experiences while installing more adaptive, helpful ways to think about oneself. When thinking or talking about a distressing experience, the negative core beliefs attached to it no longer feel as intense while the adaptive beliefs installed through BLS feel true. For example, if an individual believes that they're not good enough--a negative core belief--in relation to a traumatic event, they will become desensitized to this core belief through BLS. Furthermore, through additional BLS, EMDR installs more adaptive ways to think about oneself in relation to the traumatic event. For example, an individual may believe, "I'm okay as I am," instead of, "I'm not good enough."
What are the costs?
Individuals can use commercial insurance for EMDR sessions as they would for traditional talk therapy. Please contact your insurance company to see if you are in network with Jill K Harle Counseling. If you are paying out of pocket, an EMDR session costs $140 with an option for a sliding scale (limited spots available).
Clinicians who offer EMDR at Harle Counseling & Associates:
Michael Avender, MSW, LCSW
Dacontee Davis, MSW, LSW