I was frustrated. I was searching for something more to offer clients who were living with the effects of significant trauma – some had lived with trauma every day of their life.
I found EMDR while reading The Body Keeps the Scoreby Bessel van der Kolk – I was interested. Then, I went to a training workshop on EMDR – I was skeptical. How was this working? It looked a little like hypnosis and seemed to work a little like magic. During the workshop I experienced EMDR as the client. My physical reactions during processing were muscle twitches and tension in various parts of my body. But, the psychological reactions have been positive and long lasting.
After using EMDR with clients, and gaining more and more training along the way, it has become my preferred method of therapy. It is the psychological theory of practice that I ascribe to. EMDR is fast, effective, and long lasting.
I have successfully used EMDR with clients experiencing flashbacks from traumatic events, mood dysregulation, attachment disorder, ruminating thoughts, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, grief, and self-esteem issues.
As a therapist, I find EMDR gratifying because it drastically and quickly improves quality of life. There is no other therapy I have found to identify the negative core beliefs associated with trauma, and process memories, in such a deep, powerful, timely way.
A Case Study:
Jessica came in for counseling because she had been in a significant car accident 6 months prior. When she came in to see me Jessica had been experiencing flashbacks of the crash, the hospital, etc. for about 4 months. She was having difficulty sleeping at night, and when she did sleep she would wake up with panic attacks. Jessica was terrified of driving and was often late to work, then when she arrived at work she was often anxious and preoccupied. She was contemplating quitting her job because she said the stress was overwhelming.
Jessica and I began EMDR during the first session. She identified that during the accident she thought she was going to die – this was her core belief. Her brain was stuck in the core belief “I am going to die.” Jessica then identified a more adaptive belief is, “I am safe now.” I asked Jessica to follow my fingers as I guided her eyes back and forth from one side to the other (crossing the midline each time). Jessica thought about driving and I asked her to notice her feelings and where she felt the feelings in her body. I guided her eyes back and forth through several sets of eye movements. Between the sets I would ask her to take a deep breath and say, “what are you noticing?” Then we kept going with 30 seconds of eye movements and then a pause.
At the next session Jessica reported a noticeable decrease in her anxiety symptoms. She stated that she was able to arrive to work on time that week. Jessica continued to process the feelings and events associated with her car accident for several weeks. After 6 weeks of EMDR Jessica’s post-traumatic stress symptoms were eliminated. She reported her anxiety symptoms were between a 1 and 0 on a scale of 1-10.
Jessica’s story is just 1 of many. Anything that overwhelms the body is trauma; and don’t forget the brain is part of the body, therefore, anything that overwhelms the brain is also trauma. A trauma overwhelms the brain and body and hijacks quality of life both emotionally and physically. If you are experiencing the effects of trauma, there is help. There is hope. If you are interested in learning more about how trauma is processed in the body you can read my blog post Trauma: Simplified.
I welcome feedback. Please let me know your thoughts and experiences. I would love to hear from you, learn from you, and work with you.