EMDR therapy...why do we love it so much?

Any therapist who has been trained as an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapist gets used to the glassy eyed gaze that comes from the listener who is hearing about this therapy for the first time.  We EMDR therapists have to get pretty good at talking about what EMDR is, and what it is not.     

A bad conversation--and both Carol and I have had more than a few of them--is one where the person you are trying to educate and inspire with your enthusiasm about EMDR completely tunes you out, and nods a few times before changing the subject or making a joke about being hypnotized.   "Hmmmm, that is pretty interesting…have you ever made someone quack like a duck?" 

A bad conversation is one where words fail you, and you have been unable to convey how transformative EMDR therapy can truly be.

Psychotherapists—and this includes people from a wide range of clinical backgrounds, including social work, like me, and art therapy and nursing, like Carol—truly want to help people feel better about themselves and about their lives, and hopeful about their ability to live a life free from emotional pain and suffering.  It is humbling, frustrating, and sad when we encounter clients who are stuck and don't respond to our efforts to help, who don't benefit from medication, who may have even have to go to the hospital, and who come home still burdened by troubled waters most of us will never understand. 

Because I believe that we as living beings are innately built to survive and grow even in the most adverse circumstances—like the flower that pushes up through the cement—I am unable to be cynical about such individuals.  I realized several years ago when I had gotten stymied by enough people suffering with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that if what I was doing for my clients wasn't helping, I had to learn a new way of approaching trauma.

I am not exaggerating when I say that learning to be an EMDR therapist was akin to learning how to see, or experiencing hearing for the first time.  For me, it was transformative to my practice, not only in term of how I approached PTSD, but how I worked with individuals who had anxiety, depression, and a variety of other clinical difficulties.     

EMDR therapy works with the whole person--body, mind, emotions--much like some other effective modalities, such as mindfulness based stress reduction.  But EMDR takes this one step further, in that it intentionally seeks to address emotions and memories at the neurological level.  The bilateral stimulation (the eye movements) engage the brain processes and help access traumatic memories and core beliefs that are held at an unconscious level, and help them organically migrate to parts of the brain where they are no longer terrorizing the individual.   

If you think this sounds somewhat "far out" I would agree, but please, don't write it off quite so quickly.  What impressed me about EMDR therapy was that rather than disappearing, the founders of this therapy went out and did the hard work of gathering research to make this one of the most evidence based practices out there.   In other words, it is not magic--it is actually science. 

We are sharing a video that might interest you, where real life people talk about their experiences.  You can also head over to the websites http://www.emdr.com/ or http://www.emdria.org/default.asp  where you can read about EMDR and the research behind it. 

Please let us know what you think!

All the best to you and yours,