EMDR: Is It Hocus-Pocus?

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is intriguing to me.  I have had it done on me several times with different therapists and I can’t say how it has manifested change in my life just yet.  Recently I have been working with my current therapist and doing some EMDR around body image and feeling safe in my body.  That in itself is a topic worthy of thousands of words.  Suffice to say that extra weight=feeling safer.  Hey.  It doesn’t have to be logical.

The reason I like EMDR is that I like the idea of hocus-pocus or shortcuts in therapy.  I feel like I’ve been in therapy for most of my life, although that is not my reality.  I was in therapy for a lot of my twenties, part of my very early thirties, and then not again until now (mid forties).  So, basically, I’m a liar.  I better do some EMDR on that.

There’s some logic in this EMDR dealio about crossing the poles of the body and rewiring the brain.  Sorry I can’t get more scientific on you but I really hate when people write educational blogs that seem like they are talking down to their readers, I’m not gonna do that shit!  So just stick with me here.  There are different exercises you can do to also cross the poles, and my therapist gave me a cd of music that goes left ear-right ear, all trippy like that, to have the same effect.  I am extremely interested in rewiring my brain and MOVING where I have  been STUCK for years.  I can say that I HAVE had quite a lot of movement since my mini-breakdown in December and I hope to keep up that momentum.

I’d love to hear other people’s insight on EMDR, crossing poles, other propellants to growth, or whatever types of therapy that are tickling your fancy right now.  Look I know EMDR is old, and everyone is talking about DBT now.  Go ahead and talk about it!!  But think about it.  We’re BI-POL-AR!!  Wouldn’t it make sense that crossing the poles, zig and then zag, left ear-right ear might make some sense?  Just a wild and wacky thought (but maybe a super-good one) from your resident BIPOLAR ON FIRE!  FIRE!  FIRE!  That is all……

22 thoughts on “EMDR: Is It Hocus-Pocus?

  1. I’ve not had any luck with getting into therapy. The local NHS ones lied to me about appointments and then acted like it was my fault. *grumps* So I’m still making due with self-applied CBT! Which has done me pretty will so far, but still.

    • Tell me about your side effects?? Maybe I am having them but I don’t realize they are side effects. Hmmmm I HAVE been eating vanilla yogurt in the middle of the night a lot lately . . . late-night thirst for sugar-free grape koolaid . . . smokin’ a lot of the ganga oh wait that’s ALL the time . . . ok just TELL me!

  2. Well mine are heightened anxiety, panic attacks, and crap like that. It lasts for a few days after, during which time I have therapist on freaking speed dial, but then when it goes away, I do feel better. Like a few months ago I was having a strange sensation in my arms of being held down, and after EMDR it went away once the immediate anxiety lessened.

  3. I’ve never had luck with it, but I don’t hypnotize, either. It’s old talk therapy for me, that and shitloads of workbooks and journals.

    The one think that does work is when I’m really really badly depressed & insomniac, I’ll reset my sleep clock by staying up 24 hours straight, then shifting my sleep 1 hour earlier every night until I get to the requisite number of hours (7.5) to get me back to where I need to be). But I only do that by telling my shrink.

  4. I’m a therapist who uses EMDR as my primary treatment psychotherapy and I’ve also personally had EMDR therapy for anxiety, panic, 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 Institute, both of which I strongly recommend in an EMDR therapist) I have used EMDR successfully with panic disorders, single incident trauma and complex/chronic PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, body image, phobias, distressing memories, bad dreams and more…
    It’s really crucial that a professionally trained therapist spends enough time in one of the initial phases (Phase 2) that 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 psychotherapy). In this phase resources are “front-loaded” so that you have a “floor” or “container” to help with processing the really hard stuff. 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. So if you start feeling overwhelmed or that it’s too intense, you can ground yourself (with your therapist’s help in session, and on your own between sessions) and feel safe enough to continue the work. In my practice, after the Phase 2 work lets us know that my patient is safe enough and able to cope with any emotion and/or physical sensation both during and between EMDR processing sessions, I often suggest we try a much less intense memory first if there is one that happened BEFORE the trauma(s). If there isn’t one, then I suggest we start developmentally with the least disturbing memory and work our way “up” to the most disturbing event(s).
    Grounding exercises are indispensable in everyday life, and really essential in stressful times. Anyone 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 teaches readers lots of helpful techniques that can be used immediately and that are also used during EMDR therapy to calm disturbing thoughts and feelings.
    As I’ve mentioned about Phase 2, during EMDR therapy you learn coping strategies and self-soothing techniques that 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 likely were not during past 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 neutralize bad life experiences and build resources.
    Pacing and dosing are critically important. So if you ever feel that EMDR processing is too intense 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. They are called “cognitive interweaves” that your therapist can use, and that also can help bring your adult self’s perspective into the work (or even an imaginary Adult Perspective). Such interweaves are based around issues of Safety, Responsibility, and Choice. So therapist questions like “are you safe now?” or “who was responsible? 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 psychotherapy and its results last. In the hands of a really experienced EMDR therapist, it’s the most gentle way of working through disturbing experiences.

  5. This has been suggested to me by my daughter’s therapist but now that I have more of an idea as to what it about I think I am going to suggest it to my therapist because I suffer from ptsd and rape a few years ago and she thinks this would do me some a lot of good!!

      • Me too, one event happened to me while I was sleeping and he bragged about it to everyone and the other one happened while we were all having fun drinking and we believe they slipped the date rape drug or something into my drink because I still remember it like it was yesterday and it remember it so vividly..the only reason we think they slipped something was because they had a hard time waking me up the next day and that is not normal, and it took me awhile to remember what happened the night before..but then all the memories came back like a movie in my head…I am shaking just thinking about that night..It suppose to be a fun, celebration…

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