EMDR Works! Why to use it in therapy Part 3

Now that you have read about what EMDR is and the theory behind how it works, you might wonder who is it best for and what problems can it address?

Reason #4: EMDR is a flexible treatment approach useful on a variety of issues

While there is extensive research on the use of EMDR with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), study on it's use with other issues is quickly emerging.  This is one of the most heavily evaluated approaches to trauma, with more research coming out all the time.  Here is a partial annotated list to review.

As EMDR has gained in public awareness, I have used EMDR on a variety of issues including PTSD, depression, panic, addiction (sexual and substances), poor body image, a need to control and compulsive behavior.  Trauma can be defined by "big T" trauma, or "little t" trauma;  this means it can be something deep or chronic, like abuse or an event or seemingly small and not that significant, such as being made fun of.  These cases have been quite successful (sometimes to the surprise of the client) and have opened my eyes to how useful this approach can be for a variety of issues.

EMDR is also a very good approach with children.  Again, as research is emerging, I have used the approach with children facing bouts of anger, traumatic responses to horror movies and generalized anxiety.   It can be used for medical issues and or dental issues that produce anxiety.  What I find particularly interesting is that EMDR seems to work more efficiently with children as they have less layers of emotion built up over time.

I have found that most of these concerns outlined above seem to come down to automatic thinking and sensation that is causing the client to see their situation in a particular way.  These automatic thoughts seemed to have come from distressing and disturbing events in the past and are influencing their present experience. Once we unhook the emotion from these memories, clients are able to let them go and change their experiences in the world, able to operate independently of these disturbing experiences.  That's what has been so inspiring about this work.

Why did I choose to learn and use this approach?  Personal experience...

Reason #5: I have experienced EMDR and know what it feels like

As a therapist, I have always been reluctant to use an approach on a client that I have not experienced myself.  As a younger adult, I experienced the effects of EMDR on my life first hand.  While in graduate school, I used EMDR to work through some of my own issues.  Because that was a million years ago, and EMDR was new, I remember the trepidation of using a "weird approach" that seemed a bit hokey.  I remember questioning if it would work.  At that point in time, there was not as much of an accumulation of proven research, unlike today, but I trusted the clinician.  I remember the feelings of processing the emotions and how that changed how I saw myself.  I also remember the surprise that it actually worked.  It was quite an experience for me, and I notice the effects to this day (and that was ... well, decades ago).  As a result, I held on to that experience and wanted to provide that for my clients.  I wanted them to feel the same healing that I did and I wanted them to have the opportunity to benefit from this approach.  

Over the years I watched this approach become more and more accepted and researched and felt ready to deliver it to my clients. 

I hope this series of blog postings has answered some of your questions about EMDR and also raised others. Another place to read a 2012 series on this subject is in the NY Times, written by Francine Shapiro, the pioneer of this protocol.  I am a firm believer in researching approaches before using them.  Know that there are many "skeptics" who doubt the effectiveness of EMDR.  They have written extensively about their concerns.  However, in order to effectively evaluate the approach, I think fair and thorough research should be done.  Also, I am not sure how many skeptics have actually gone through EMDR as a client.  Please be skeptical, ask questions and find out.  Don't engage in any treatment approach until you are comfortable doing so.

... and do not work with a clinician who does not make you feel comfortable and empowered in your own treatment. 

Here are some other documents that you might find helpful to review.  I provide these to my clients as we move toward using EMDR.

EMDRIA (EMDR International Association) Brochure on the Use of EMDR

EMDRIA Brochure regarding the use of EMDR with Children

News Video following a specific case using EMDR


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