*Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. The information below is for educational and support purposes only. Please discuss any changes you want to make with your provider first.*
In past posts, either my alters or I mentioned trying EMDR with different counselors. The results were good in session, but not so great between sessions or in real life. The coping strategies we practiced to help with the side effects of EMDR were sufficient but not enough to quote a past counselor. I couldn’t cope with the side effects of EMDR while living my old life, so put it aside to focus on techniques and strategies that did help.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
So what is EMDR? And why is it helpful (depending on the individual) for PTSD, Trauma, and Anxiety?
You can find an excellent definition and resources here at the EMDR Therapy website
This article defines EMDR
This website is for the EMDR International Association and offers training, education, and resources.
Why try EMDR again after so many years?
Different counselor, different approach, different overall living situation
- My memories were coming back, and the emotions/sensations/triggers that came with them started interrupted daily life or nightly sleep too often
- The hyper-vigilance and panic attacks kept increasing because of new or more sensitive environmental and internal triggers
- Increased sensitivity to internal triggers – existing coping strategies and techniques were less helpful than usual; sometimes made the overwhelming feelings or anxiety worse
- My current counselor asked me if I was willing to try EMDR again and explained her process. Then showed me different options to use for the bi-lateral stimulation part of the process.
- Overall, I felt safe, confident, and ready to try this again
How did the EMDR work this time around?
The EMDR worked well and helped a lot to reduce my sensitivity to certain triggers and feel more confident about my reactions to situations in real life. The memories are just memories now. Any lingering trauma sensations or triggers left with each EMDR session.
Yes, I have had two sessions so far: one earlier this summer and one in October.
Why wait to share?
As mentioned earlier in the post, there are side effects or after effects that linger for a period of time after the EMDR session. The time period for long those effects last differs from person to person.
For me, the effects last about 2-3 months. During this time period, my focus is narrowed to: meet basic needs and self-care as I work with or through the emotional and physical changes brought out by the EMDR.
Will you share tips and suggestions for preparing for an EMDR session?
Yes. I broke the list down into three sections.
Discussing with or finding an experienced counselor
- Learn as much as you can about EMDR and how it could benefit you because it does not help everyone
- If you are seeing a counselor, have a conversation about how EMDR could help you
- If your counselor is trained in EMDR, ask if you can try it in a future session
- If your counselor is not trained and you want to try EMDR, ask for a referral to work with an EMDR specialist along with regular sessions
- If you do decide to work with a specialist, make sure you feel safe and comfortable with her or him before you start anything.
*remember it’s important to trust the counselor and feel safe sharing these experiences in order for any kind of therapy or coping technique to be effective*
Before the EMDR session
- Listen to the counselor’s process: intake questions, building resources, practicing coping strategies so that you remember them even in distress, discussing memories and choosing which one to work on in each session, etc.
- Work with the counselor to answer questions as honestly as possible; provide enough information to help you both make informed decisions about the session and after care
- If a coping strategy does not work for you, say so and work with the counselor to find an alternative
- The counselor may ask you what type of EMDR tool you want to use for the bi-lateral stimulation part. The choice is yours, and it’s okay to ask if you can try out each one before making your choice
After the EMDR session
- You will feel tired after your session, so it’s best to try scheduling your session after work or on a day with minimal activity
- You may experience emotions and sensations differently – that makes coping with and reacting to them difficult sometimes
- Your body may feel different – especially if you experience body memories
- You could have more memories resurface – not all traumatic – and have to cope with them too
- If you are like me (aka open about your unique gifts), you might also have some interesting experiences within your environment or during interactions with people. Traditional coping strategies might not work for those experiences, but your spiritual or religious practice could help. My spiritual practice helps me cope with them
Remember, EMDR is not for everyone. These tips are for informational purposes only and based solely on my personal experience. Please discuss with a medical or mental health professional before making any decisions or changes to your current treatment plan.
Thanks for reading.