As an Atlanta therapist who specializes in trauma, I get asked a lot of questions about EMDR therapy. I am EMDR trained and have been doing it for about 4 years. I first encountered EMDR therapy in my own personal counseling journey. My counselor at the time suggested we do rapid eye movement therapy to deal with some past trauma.
I first recognized that I needed more trauma work when I was taking a trip to see a friend. I sat in the middle seat and the man next to me had taken over his entire seat, some of mine, and the armrest between us. A feeling of powerlessness came over me as I was sitting and panic was induced. All I could think about was how I did not want this man’s body to brush mine. Tears fell from my eyes and I started breathing deeply to calm my nerves. I felt trapped and words were hard to express. I sat for one hour and forty-five minutes hating two things: how uncomfortable I felt by his shirt brushing mine and my inability to say, “Excuse me, can you move please.” I knew I had been triggered and so I made an appointment with my therapist.
How did I know I had been triggered?
I am an adult who can communicate well with others and normally I voice what I need but in this case, I could not put words together and my ability to speak was taken. When you go through trauma the part of your brain that puts feelings to words decreases in function and the visual part of your brain lights up, therefore verbal communication becomes difficult. Another sign was my heart was racing, and inside I wanted to scream. This indicates that my body was signaling unsafety and just like if a bear showed up in my backyard, I wanted to get out of there fast but I was in freeze mode.
Where does EMDR therapy come in?
In the most basic form, EMDR therapy helps both sides of your brain work together. So the logical side and the emotional side can work together as they are meant to and they reprocess traumatic events as a whole.
Without going into much detail (because no one needs to know the details of my trauma), I needed to reprocess events in my life where my voice had been taken by male figures in my life. I needed to put words to my feelings and be able to express freely to this male passenger what I wanted and needed at that time. My space was invaded and I wanted it back. By engaging my visual imagery and eye movements, I was able to reprocess negative memories and saw a decrease in trigger symptoms.
How does EMDR therapy work?
It is so simple. I usually tell clients that at first, it will feel kind of mystical and most will say that it did not work at first. I ask to sit closer to you in front of you, I put up my right arm holding two fingers up, eye level with you and I start moving my forearms like a pendulum. You sit with both feet flat on the floor, take a deep breath, and follow my fingers. The movement of my fingers from left to right connected the left and right parts of your brain. I stare at you the whole time for eye movement signals in case you need to stop, and I look for emotions in your body and especially in your facial expressions.
Once we stop, I will ask you to take a deep breath, and let me know what you saw and/or felt in a sentence or a word. I will say, “let’s go with that,” and we will start the bilateral movement again.
We release your brain to make sense of any of the information you tell me. Sometimes it does make sense with what we are processing and sometimes it does not. We do not judge it and instead let it be what it is. Allowing your brain to reprocess however it needs to at the pace that feels the safest for you and your body. It is a space where you can let your mind freely wander and let me or another EMDR therapist figure out what is going on inside of you.
What I love about EMDR Therapy
I love that it is evidence-based. Many organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense recognized EMDR therapy as an effective treatment for PTSD. It is highly effective and worth the time spent.
How will I know if it works?
For me, it was easier because I used to go on lots of trips. The next time I got on a plane I was able to voice myself when needed and I knew it had worked. As you know, trauma does not fully go away but the intensity and the occurrence of the symptoms/triggers do decrease over time with trauma therapy and treatment. I love trauma work because it works and a person can live a full life; there is hope.
What symptoms does EMDR therapy work for?
It was made for trauma but it can also be used for panic and anxiety and I use it for negative cognitive beliefs about oneself. EMDR has been useful at Remain Connected Counseling in Atlanta for identity issues and finding the root of low self-esteem and self-image. Some of my clients do not come for EMDR work but we will do sessions to guide them from the stuck place they are in.
When does it not work?
To begin any type of PTSD treatment and trauma therapy, one must be stable first. It does not work for people who are in active addictive behavior or in a recent crisis. The first work of trauma is to feel safe and trust your EMDR therapist or another relationship. Do not dive into trauma work without knowing first what safety looks like for you in your life.
How does Remain Connected do EMDR therapy in Atlanta?
We absolutely follow the process of the 8 stages of EMDR therapy and how it was written because we truly value the effectiveness of following it. I personally, do not use the entirety of our time together to solely do EMDR, some therapists do, but I do not. I value pausing and processing any breakthrough you have. It is also important to me that we focus on what is on your mind for the sessions.
Some clients come in and do not want to do EMDR because it is exhausting or they need a break from it and that is good for me. We must be gentle with ourselves and not rush the process but instead listen to our clients as they know best what is needed for them. It makes sense that you would not want to do an EMDR therapy session when you have work right after. It also makes sense to me that you do not want to do an EMDR session because you feel overwhelmed. It is your personal healing journey and I respect that. So what we do instead is talk therapy.
I know I want to do EMDR but I feel scared… What should I do?
Being fearful of the process, outcome, or something else is completely valid. I would say try talk therapy first with an EMDR therapist. Processing your fear and talking it through is really important and part of the work. One thing you should know is that EMDR will not bring up memories that your brain is not ready to process. This is usually why clients do not feel ready for it and part of the work is trusting your brain to reprocess what it needs.
Trauma therapy is hard and a process but do not let these things keep you from leaving out of hope. The hope that triggers can decrease and you can feel freedom from past trauma. I say this because I did the work and I got better and not only better but I was able to feel like I was finally in control of my life and thriving. It feels liberating when a past trigger that used to take you out for days becomes a simple thought that in seconds goes away. You can have this type of healing as well. I hope this blog answers some of your questions and lets you into my journey with EMDR therapy. If you have any other questions feel free to leave us a comment!
Are You Ready to Try EMDR Therapy in Atlanta, GA?
One of the benefits of being an Atlanta therapist who has gone through EMDR therapy is that I know how difficult it can be to reach out for help. I will walk you through the process and we can take counseling at your pace. If you are ready to start your healing journey at Remain Connected Counseling then follow these steps:
Schedule your first appointment with an EMDR therapist.
Start living a full life!
Other Therapy Services At Remain Connected in Georgia
We offer several different mental health services at our Smyrna GA-based therapy practice. Such as teen therapy, anxiety treatment, and Pastoral counseling. Along with life transitions therapy, depression treatment, Christian counseling, and more. With online therapy, these services are available to anyone in Georgia. We look forward to supporting you in living your life to the fullest.