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#421154 - 01/06/13 12:45 AM EMDR
remaininghopeful Offline

Registered: 12/31/12
Posts: 23
Can anyone tell me what EMDR is like?

#421158 - 01/06/13 01:28 AM Re: EMDR [Re: remaininghopeful]
pufferfish Offline

Registered: 02/26/08
Posts: 6875
Loc: USA
I have found that EMDR is a powerful technique in dealing with pasts hurts of abuse. It's a relatively new technique and so there are a few therapists who don't use it properly or compassionately. Make sure your therapist has gone through the training session in using EMDR.

Here's a summary of links. Just click on the link:

Here's how I answered that to a previous inquiry. This is what it felt like for me to go through EMDR.

Originally Posted By: pufferfish

EMDR helped me so very much.

There are apparently differences in technique between therapists, and EMDR seems to work better for some clients than others. Some say that it has to be a very recent trauma, but that is definitely not what I found.

When my T used it, I had to focus my mind on an issue in my present world; the more specific the better. It had to be an issue that triggered me. Such as, 'I saw a certain person and had a certain response.' Your T will help you decide on the issue to focus on. Then the T used a stick waving back and forth in front of me. Very simple. I was to focus on the spot on the top of the stick. I had to concentrate on the issue. I would say briefly to the T what was going on. Sometimes it was hard to talk so I gave baby-like answers. Then the following would happen:

1. My mind would start to move in a direction. It seemed to me as though I was entering a forest of trees, with long straight trees surrounding on both sides.

2. I would have to fight distractions in my mind. There were like other things beckoning me from around that I had to choose to ignore.

3. I would travel, travel, travel, through the forest and then reach a clearing

4. I would report feeling like a child.

5. I would remember me as a child being in a particular situation.

6. Then the strength of my response deepened. I was feeling what the child felt. The child was of course me in an abusive situation.

I reported very briefly to the T what I felt every few minutes. He would say OK go on.

7. When we reached the abuse and I had remembered myself in that situation, my T started to back me out.

8. It took a few minutes to back me out of it.

When I was all through I was on a "high". It sometimes took me several hours to come down. I then would try to do something interesting for a while to help my mind relax. Sometimes it was just looking around in an interesting store or something.

Another therapist here in town takes time to carefully help her clients in coming down. I did this pretty much on my own.

EMDR really was wonderful for me. It broke the "spell" of those triggers and emotional patterns. It was a little bit painful going through it but it was well worth it. I got so I was looking forward to EMDR sessions because I genuinely noticed a difference afterward. It usually took a couple days for me to feel better.

It felt like a passive procedure. That is, it seemed as all I had to do was follow that pathway. But it took mental effort and I had to choose to follow that pathway.

At first the EMDR sessions were a week apart. This was too much so I cut them back to every other week.

I wish I had kept notes on what happened in each session because they were so dramatic.


Here's another description by BJK

Originally Posted By: BJK

I've been doing some in depth EMDR for seven months now, and as I get closer to the 1 year anniversary of when the stark realization of what exactly it was that I went through when I was a child, it pays to take some time to reflect where I've been and how far I've come.

I remember the first few EMDR sessions were all about "safe place" training. I have learned that my safe place is more a frame of mind than anything else, and I have learned to find it in some of the most stressful of situations in day to day life. In fact, if I was able to get nothing else out of EMDR, the ability I have learned to deal with triggers as they happen has been a tantamount aspect to my recovery as well as my success in my professional life.

The first real EMDR session I had was pretty ugly. We were focusing on a situation I had at work where I was triggered, and the focus of the excercise was to simply try to find my way back to my safe place. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but to compare it with some of the things that I had endured as a child. This opened up a huge can of worms that took over a month to close back up again. All of those emotions came rushing back all at once, and it was not fun.

But since then, even though I was scared to return to the EMDR, I have learned how powerful it can be. We have tackled two memories thus far, and it is amazing how those two memories affected my every day life.

I'm going to describe these memories as vividly as possible, so this might get a little triggering.

The first memory was from about the age of 3. My mother used to babysit a girl who lived down the street, and the two of us would generally eat lunch together. I remember, as a child, that there was always a fuss about trying to get me to drink my milk. I never liked the stuff. On this particular day, we had grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup for lunch with the customary cup full of milk. I didn't like tomato soup, either, so there was obviously a bit of a ruckus in trying to get me to eat anything but my sandwich. The milk, however, was sour, and I don't know if my mother realized it or not. It was the last bit from the carton, and the girl my mother was babysitting got a fresh glass from a new carton. I remember that I was crying as I tried to choke down the clumpy sour milk, and I gagged as I had nothing to wash it down with besides the tomato soup that I also loathed. After several tries to gulp down my milk, my mother had enough. Apparently, she hadn't realized that I had just taken a mouthful of milk that I was trying to swallow as she clobbered me unawares in the back of the head. Sour milk went up my nose, a lot of it, and then I vomited. All of this mess ended up in my tomato soup, and I was forced to choke it all down nonetheless.

How does this memory affect me today?

The fact is, I barely remembered the incident until doing some EMDR work on it. However, I have had a hard time, over the years, even watching others drink milk. When I see a child that has a milk mustache, I have to choke back gorge in my throat. I have found that, recently, this horrible backlash has begun to fade. Hell, I even let my niece kiss me on the cheek with a brand new fresh milk mustache just a couple of weekends ago. Also, there is the PTSD that is associated with my mother's incessant desire to clobber me in the back of the head when I had no clue it was coming. If I knew it was coming, she'd psyche me out a couple of times before following through. Somehow, this has developed into an irrational fear of balloons (among other things). A few weeks ago, at work, something thought it would be fun to fill one of the boss's offices up with balloons while she was on vaction. A group of people literally spent dozens of hours blowing up hundreds of balloons, and the end result was that someone had to pop all of those balloons to dispose of them once the joke was done. That was pure hell for me. In the past, my DID would have kicked in, and I would have done something completely irrational without any memory of even doing it. Instead, I was able to find my safe place long enough to go out and explain my dilemma to the balloon popping crew. "Hey, guys? I'm right inside that door there, and it's extremely stressful in there. Every time you pop one of these balloons, I jump about three to six inches in the air. I have nerves of noodles, and they're about shot right now. Is there any possible way you could take this out to the parking lot?" Without a moment's hesitation, they agreed. The problem was solved.

Now this was a pretty minor success, and it was my first foray into the world of EMDR. The memories, as I try to tackle them, get progressively more traumatic. Ironically, when I was rating these memories, I came to the realization that shame is a much more traumatic feeling for me than fear. The next memory, although it originally centered on fear, has come full circle to represent shame as well.

I was about the same age as what I have affectionately begun to refer to as "The Milk Incident", but this cause and effect of this memory go quite a bit deeper than just the memory itself. In actuality, this memory triggered a whole host of other memories, including the realization that a flashback I had last autumn was an event that actually happened. Now this might seem a little odd to some, but I actually remember being potty trained. I was treated like a dog, and there are two specific heavily triggering memories that serve to make up the next stage in my EMDR. This is still hard for me to write even after all of this work.

Little boys, even as young as two years old, get erections from time to time, and they can make potty training quite challenging to the poor parents that have to deal with the runaway stream. That was the precursor to a flashback I had last autumn, where my mother was absolutely livid that I had missed the toilet. Instead of just cleaning it up, or instead of just showing me how to clean it up, she had to make absolutely certain that it was ingrained into my head that missing the toilet was a no-no. She rubbed my nose in it. I'm not sure if that happened more than once or not.

At about the age of three, we were shopping in a Target store when I was incessantly asking her to take a bathroom break. I got yelled at over and over again until finally the dam broke and I wet my pants. It's common for three year olds to wet their pants, and it's really nothing to be ashamed about. I've spent the last 30 years trying to live down the shame of that incident because she couldn't stop at just punishing me. She brought me to the ladies bathroom, pulled down my pants, and tried to cut my penis off with a scissors. I was quite uncooperative, and I ended up with a bruise on the side of my face for my efforts. After all of these years, I remembered my mothers reaction after she punched me for the first time just recently. She was an opium addict who walked around in a daze for most of her adult life. After she clobbered me, she had an "oh, shit...what have I done?" moment. That was when I was able to escape. I didn't bother to pull up my pants. I ran out of the bathroom through the aisles of Target with my pants around my ankles screaming my heads off. Back then, people just didn't ask questions.

When we were going through this memory in EMDR, I had to stop one session short. I became so overcome with shame and anger, at the same time, I lost my connection with my safe place. It was like I had found a great big ball of goo that had crusted over, and once some of that crust had been removed, the goo that was on the inside was releasing a stench of emotions I could not handle. I could feel myself starting to diss out, and my therapist worked with me for a half hour making sure I was able to get back to the safe place. We waited about two months before trying again, and the task was much easier after having a chance to discuss the emotions that had started to leak through in the first attempt.

How does this affect me today?

Quite obviously, I have developed an extremely averse reaction to natural bodily functions. I'm not talking about your standard "oh, gross" reaction. I mean that I actually have a lot of shame about them. For years, I couldn't use anything in a public bathroom besides a urinal out of fear. The thought of other people using the bathroom disgusts me, and I can't even think of changing a baby's diaper without having to choke back bile. It has been a severe problem, but the EMDR work has provided a breakthrough. Back in March, my sister came to visit with her kids. They were all dressed up to go swimming, and the littlest one, who is two, was wearing those swimming diaper things that aren't very absorbant. As fate would have it, she had an accident while she was sitting on my lap. A year ago, I would have totally freaked out even though I didn't get very much on my. It was mostly on my hands and on my lower pants leg. I would have had to take a shower and change ALL of my clothes provided I would have been able to stop myself from gagging. Instead, I was able to wash my hands and just walk it off. It was only a little bit on my lower pants, and it was mostly water. It didn't stink, no big deal.

So how does this whole EMDR thing work?

Well, the best comparison I can provide is if how a person sometimes says a word over and over again, it tends to lose its meaning. That's really what the EMDR has done for me. The memories themselves don't really, nor have they ever, had a hold on me. It is the emotions that are associated with the memores that hold me. The emotions cause me to diss out, and the fact is, I'll probably never get over feeling those emotions when it comes to triggers. However, I am coming to understand that they are only emotions. I'm learning to feel them, and I'm learning to master them. As I sit in my safe place and relive these memories over and over again, the emotions they invoke tend to become like a word that is recited over and over again. Those emotions start to lose their meaning, and as a result, they start to lose their hold.

I have a long ways to go, as in my last therapy session we went through the list of memories I have that we are going to be going through at my own pace. There are a couple of memories in that list that fill me with a dreadful shame. I don't want to touch those memories, and I don't want to go through the emotions they invoke. It's my choice whether I do it or not, but I know that in order to become the person I want to be, I'll have to tread through.

After my therapist session on Wednesday, I'm taking about 6 weeks off. My therapist says I've earned it.

Edited by pufferfish (01/06/13 02:34 AM)

#421249 - 01/06/13 04:25 PM Re: EMDR [Re: remaininghopeful]
DrPJL Offline

Registered: 12/14/12
Posts: 9
Loc: Boston
I'm a therapist who uses EMDR as my primary method and I've also personally had EMDR therapy for anxiety, grief, and “small t” trauma. As a client, EMDR worked extremely well and also really fast. As an EMDR therapist, and in my role as a facilitator who trains other therapists in EMDR (certified by the EMDR International Assoc. and trained by the EMDR Inst, both of which I strongly recommend in an EMDR therapist) I have used EMDR successfully with PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, body image, phobias, panic attacks, distressing memories, and bad dreams.

Yet 20 yrs ago I resisted studying EMDR despite the raves I was hearing among my trauma-savvy colleagues (I did pre- and post-doc psychology internships at the Trauma Center in Boston - see TraumaCenter dot org. I finally checked it out with very critical eyes and discovered something quite awesome.

Having PTSD means certain things trigger you and that's pretty disturbing. Grounding exercises are terrifically helpful. You can use some of the techniques in Dr. Shapiro's new book "Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR." Dr. Shapiro is the founder/creator of EMDR but all the proceeds from the book go to two charities: the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program and the EMDR Research Foundation). Anyway, the book is terrific. It's an easy read, helps you understand what's "pushing" your feelings and behavior, helps you connect the dots from past experiences to current life. Also gives lots of really helpful ways that are used during EMDR therapy to calm disturbing thoughts and feelings.

One of the initial phases (Phase 2) in EMDR involves preparing for memory processing or desensitization (memory processing or desensitization - phases 3-6 - is often referred to as "EMDR" which is actually an 8-phase method of psychotherapy). In this phase resources are "front-loaded" so that you have a "floor" or "container" to help with processing the really hard stuff, as well as creating strategies when you're triggered in everyday life. In Phase 2 you learn a lot of great coping strategies and self-soothing techniques which you can use during EMDR processing or anytime you feel the need.

You learn how to access a “Safe or Calm Place” which you can use at ANY TIME during EMDR processing (or on your own) if it feels scary, or too emotional, too intense. One of the key assets of EMDR is that YOU, the client, are in control NOW, even though you probably weren’t in the past, during traumatic events. You NEVER need re-live an experience or go into great detail, ever! You NEVER need to go through the entire memory. YOU can decide to keep the lights (or the alternating sounds and/or tactile pulsars, or the waving hand) going, or stop them, whichever helps titrate – measure and adjust the balance or “dose“ of the processing. During EMDR processing there are regular “breaks” and you can control when and how many but the therapist should be stopping the bilateral stimulation every 25-50 passes of the lights to ask you to take a deep breath and ask you to say just a bit of what you’re noticing. (The stimulation should not be kept on continuously, because there are specific procedures that need to be followed to process the memory). The breaks help keep a “foot in the present” while you’re processing the past. Again, and I can’t say this enough, YOU ARE IN CHARGE so YOU can make the process tolerable. And your therapist should be experienced in the EMDR techniques that help make it the gentlest and safest way to detoxify bad life experiences and build resources.

Pacing and dosing are extremely important! So if you ever feel that EMDR processing is overwhelming, then it might be time to go back over all the resources that should be used both IN session and BETWEEN sessions. Your therapist should be using a variety of techniques to make painful processing less painful, like suggesting you turn the scene in your mind to black and white, lower the volume, or, erect a bullet-proof glass wall between you and the painful scene, or, imagine the abuser speaking in a Donald Duck voice... and so forth. There are a lot of these kinds of "interventions" that ease the processing! Bringing your adult self into the memory is a great strategy. Your therapist can use what we call "cognitive interweaves" to help bring your adult self's perspective into the work as well. Such interweaves are based around issues of Safety, Responsibility, and Choice. So T questions like "are you safe now?" or "who was responsible? How big were you compared to how big was the perpetrator?" and "do you have more choices now?" are all very helpful in moving the processing along.

In addition to my therapy practice, I roam the web looking for EMDR discussions, try to answer questions about it posted by clients/patients, and respond to the critics out there. It's not a cure-all therapy, however, it really is an extraordinary method and its results last. Check out the research: <emdr dot com/general-information/research- overview dot html>. In the hands of a really experienced EMDR therapist, also trained in trauma theory/therapy, it's the most gentle way of detoxifying really horrid experiences.

I can't say enough good things about EMDR. It's changed my life both as a person/consumer, and as a therapist. It's so satisfying to have someone come in for help and then to witness them get through their issues and finish therapy relatively quickly (compared to regular talk therapy, it's like night and day). I am both humbled by and grateful for this wonderful method that heals suffering.


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