Using EMDR I will have people name what their issue is; where it is in their bodies; visualize what the distress might look like and how it makes them feel and identify what the internal messages are that get triggered. Then, while they are processing the issue, I will bilaterally stimulate their brains through tapping on their knees. (Some clinicians use eye movements and others use sound.) At various points throughout the process resources would be integrated to internally shift their experience into a more empowered response. At the end of the session we review what significant events happened during the EMDR that brought the initial distress down. Between therapy appointments, if the person experiences distress then they can remember back to those moments and draw upon the resources that helped them to feel empowered. In a large brushstroke blog I hope that this helps to explain EMDR a little bit. The rest is an artform developed between the individual and the therapist together and it is different for everyone. Where nature and quiet might be a resource for one person, running might be a resource for another. The important thing is to find a therapist with whom you feel safe and comfortable. As a client you need to feel safe in the therapists office and aware that you are ‘dipping your toe’ into the distress in order to heal it into the present. You are not ‘jumping into the photo album of your life’ and having the therapist climb in after you. The client and therapist need to have a good working relationship to obtain a successful outcome. The therapist needs to be checking in with the client often in order to rate the distress and decide when resources need to be brought in. The client needs to be communicating authentically about what is going on in their mind, body and spirit. The client is also responsible for keeping themselves in what I call the ‘window of tolerance’. That is the healthy zone of feeling and thinking at the same time. It’s very similar to the analogy of going to the gym and deciding to get fit. It would be irresponsible of a personal trainer to work someone out before finding out what their baseline fitness level is. They have to find out their baseline and then grow their tolerance for working out.
As a therapist, I have to work with clients to find out their baseline regarding distress. Then we work together to grow their tolerance for thinking and feeling at the same time while they are distressed. If someone gets too distraught or is unable to think clearly when I ask a question then I have them ground themselves into the present or visualize a safe place where they can feel calm. Once they are calm and grounded then we break down the issue into smaller chunks so that it is manageable for them process. Hopefully this explains EMDR to people who want to heal around all kinds of trauma and PTSD. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.