EMDR has been around since the 80’s. As the stigma around PTSD has decreased and awareness of mental health care has increased, EMDR has been put in the spotlight. It has even been portrayed in some popular TV shows. More and more mental health professionals are getting trained in EMDR and more and more people are seeking it as a treatment option.
You may see more than one counselor for treatment in your lifetime.
While the therapeutic relationship is key, sometimes there are reasons that you might have to change to a new counselor: Moving, not the right fit, or perhaps you accomplished what you needed to and no longer needed counseling.
If you find yourself starting with a new counselor for EMDR, you may have some idea about what to expect overall. However, every counselor has their own approach to implementing the EMDR protocol. It does not mean that your previous counselor was doing it wrong or that your current counselor doesn’t know what they are doing. It does mean that they have adapted EMDR in a way that they have found most effective and can implement with the greatest amount of confidence.
Here are a few things that you can expect from any counselor you see for EMDR:
- You are in charge.
Yes, the counselor is the professional in the room and will guide the process and offer their suggestions and collaborate with you on how to best approach the issues but you call the shots overall. If today is not a good day for EMDR then let your counselor know. If you have come in ready to jump right in, let your counselor know.
- Your EMDR therapist will help identify “targets”.
Targets are memories, beliefs and experiences that your brain gets stuck on and creates our trauma-based reactions. With more complex trauma such as long childhood histories of abuses, neglect or attachment trauma, the target may not be obvious. Not all counselors use the same lingo so while “target” is a clinical EMDR term, they may not directly identify them as “targets”.
If you feel confused or unsure, ask your therapist to break down the targets with you.
- Your counselor will review, refresh and teach you new resources.
Resources are the tools that you use to manage any emotional intensity or reactions to reprocessing the targets. Before beginning reprocessing, every EMDR counselor will ensure you have some tools (resources) for managing the work you do inside the office and managing triggers outside the office.
- Bilateral stimulation (BLS) will be used.
BLS is a way to help the left side of your brain and the right side of your brain work together on the same problem at the same time. It is an essential part of EMDR. However, there are many ways to create BLS and your counselor may use a different method then your previous counselor. Most counselors have a go to method (mine is to tap on the top of my client’s knees). Eye movement is a popular form of BLS but some counselors may use little buzzers you hold in each of your hands and still others may use audio stimulation.
Some counselors will be explicit about the steps of EMDR and give you a play by play along the way. Others may have a different pace and the steps of EMDR are not obvious but it is likely you will recognize some of the steps if you have done EMDR with previous therapists.
Remember, you are in charge so if you want more information about how your therapist preforms EMDR, just ask. EVERY EMDR therapist should be able to give you an explanation and describe their process. If this is your first time seeking counseling for EMDR, check out this link to learn more about EMDR.
Collaboration between you and your counselor is at the heart of EMDR and will produce the best results and most satisfying EMDR experience.