Last week i traveled to #milwaukee to be trained in using EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing . This technique is a quicker version of psychotherapy. When i went to the training, i was open to the process because i have heard so many success stories. I did not believe it actually worked, i was channeling the “placebo effect” – give a sugar pill but the person thinks its the real medication and it works (mind over matter). Part of this training though was me therapying myself and it was amazing the difference i felt and am still feeling during the after effects (processing continues after therapy session ends)
This training was a small group of therapists from around the midwest and first half of each day was learning a portion of the technique, and the second half was us going in small groups of three (observer, client, therapist) and practicing the technique on eachother so that we could each experience being the client and practice using the technique as the therapist.
We picked “smaller issues” to work on over the 3 day period so that we could still notice if the technique worked and maybe feel better about something that was bothering us. To start we learned a general overview of the technique, history and such. We each created a “safe place” to go to if the technique brought up intense emotion and this would help us relax through it. We then placed our issue with negative and positive thoughts and used the technique which is the eye movement, to help re organize the thoughts and feelings connected to that experience which in effect affected how we feel today in similiar situations.
Day two was going in depth with our situation, the negative and positive cognition and hopefully overcoming that initial experience. This was where the intense emotions would come up, between “feeder memories” (similar experiences). My working issue was my fear of public speaking. we “floated back” by imagining the experience (speaking in public), taking those physical sensations, and allowing ourselves to go back to previous times where we felt that sensation and recording the memories down to the earliest memory. we had to think about that memory and as we processed it with the eye movement, we were incorporating what we know now, into that memory until our image of that memory , not necessarily faded, but didn’t “feel ” as strong. This is where feeder memories came in , different situations that were simliar to the memories / feelings. Our brain is basically a filing cabinet – We experience a situation and our body and mind connect to create sensations – positive and negative. With my experience i brought up shame – or negatively “im not good enough, im not worthy”. My positive was ” i am worthy”. I would think the positive with the situation until my mind was able to make connections from all the experience that ive learned, (they call this adaptive information processing) with that situation and re organized the internal filing cabinet so that yes i still had the memory, but the feelings were normalized, that memory was categorized properly in the cabinet and the part that connects now is no longer negative. yes i remember the feelings i had associated, but now its more, “yes it happened, im over it, i remember how i felt about it but now that intense show of emotion is gone becuase the filing cabinet is organized’.
Day three was going over what happened since the last session. Normally these sessions are a week apart, and they dont always complete themselves in one session. This should also be done with a professional to help process memories and emotions that come up. The processing as i said continues after the session. I had strange dreams that normally i would consider nightmares over the weekend. i was also completely drained and fatigued. I had new memories come up that , werent repressed but i had forgot about them ( which is normal). the connections i was able to make between experiences and similiar experiences was amazing. I had gone to counseling all through college for my fear of public speaking and confronting people , or feelings of nervousness when the boss called me in. Nothing ever made me feel good, i always left each session in tears and felt like crap. This weekend was a big breakthrough, i feel like a giant weight has been lifted. Granted other things came up that i now will have to process in therapy, but its a good thing. I was able to move past that initial young memory. Im still feeling the fatigue even 4 days later, but i also feel a sense of motivation to do things that i havent felt in a long time. Anyway – day three, how have things been, has anything changed, any new memories come up. If anything has, we repeat day two with the new items, negative and cognitive, and repeat safe place.
Emdr isn’t for everyone, but it may help you. Emdr has been mainly used and researched with veterans and ptsd, however it has been used with other populations experiencing different types of trauma. Trauma has been defined as any situation that caused negative feelings. I felt intense emotion at different times, however with us being trained before we started , my acting therapist was able to help me through them properly. That is very important because not being able to process feelings properly can lead to deeper emotions and actions. Safe place is made to help cushion, but to have a therapist guide to the safe place feeling and through the steps is important in case we “fall off the tracks” and cant pull up that cushion.
To find a EMDR trained therapist near you, checkout the emdria website