Having given you an idea of what it looks like to have EMDR therapy, and what the research shows about how it works, I thought it’d be helpful if I describe my own experience with an EMDR session. I know not all therapists are created equal, but the sessions will likely be similar.
When I started EMDR therapy I was in one of the hardest places that I’d seen since I first recognized that I needed help. An event had triggered ALL the PTSD symptoms. It was a mess. I even had flashbacks running about unrelated trauma. Twenty years of managed, contained issues had fallen like a house of cards.
The therapist I saw explained about EMDR, and honestly, I thought it sounded like the most hokey stuff I’d ever heard about. However, I was desperate. I agreed to give it a try.
Because of the level of distress, we tackled the most recent event with a session of talk therapy and picked out a few emotions which seemed to be causing me the most trouble. By the time I left, we had a plan for the following session, which was 3 days away.
I arrived, we reviewed the plan. The therapist made sure there wasn’t anything new we needed to address. Then she had me settle in and relax.
To achieve the dual hemisphere activation, she gave me two small buzzers. We adjusted the speed and intensity so they were comfortable, and I held one in each hand. I closed my eyes and she guided me through first, recognizing the emotion we’d agreed to work on. Then, she had me focus further back to previous times I’d felt that way.
As we followed the emotion all the way back to the first time I could recall it, we had to take a break because things were getting too intense. She had me get a sip of water, made sure I was still willing to continue, and we went back at it.
Using the tools I’d already gathered from DBT therapy, I was able to face down the initial event of this emotion and effectively remove its teeth. It went from being the monster locked in a cage to being more of an ugly stuffed animal.
The entire process felt like it took an hour or more, but in reality, only about 8 minutes had passed.
We talked about how I felt following the EMDR and what self care I would be using before the next session. My therapist told me to be sure to hydrate, eat properly, and sleep through the night before talking to anyone about the session.
When I woke the next morning, the emotion we’d handled no longer had any power to cause me distress.
I poked at it. I investigated every possible angle. I’m very good at finding out why something didn’t actually work out, I promise. That emotion looked at me, sighed, and rolled over like a sleepy toddler.
I was blown away.
Once the major traumas were gone, my therapist turned to helping me work out smaller issues that held me back. One of those was always hearing that parent’s voice full of criticism and disdain, the one that says you’ll never succeed, the one that leaves you feeling like nothing you do is ever good enough.
One session of EMDR, about 4 minutes in the actual process, and that voice is gone. Can you imagine life with that kind of freedom, with that much power restored to yourself?
Well, that’s what EMDR does. It’s powerful, fast, effective, and lasting. It has been almost five years since I started EMDR therapy, and four since I left it. Thanks to this form of therapy, I was able to leave all the anxiety and depression meds behind. Before I started it, I was on lithium, Zoloft, celexa, and briefly on Valium as well. The Valium went first, then the lithium. Shortly afterward, the Zoloft fell away. The celexa took longer, but eventually it was no longer needed, either.
Look around you and see if you can find someone who uses EMDR. If you can be free of the demons that chase you, why wouldn’t you?
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