EMDR psychotherapy has been around since the 1980’s. During that time, there has been a fair amount of false and inaccurate information about it.
What am I talking about? Below is a description of few of the common misunderstandings that I hear from clients, and sometimes from other therapists
EMDR Psychotherapy Is A Quick Fix
Every few weeks, I receive a phone call from a potential EMDR psychotherapy client. He or she tells me that they want to come in for “a few EMDR psychotherapy sessions”. During our conversation, that person often will describe a bit about their history and their therapeutic goals. They have read an article, talked to a friend, or posted online. Despite the fact that they are dealing with quite a few difficulties, they somehow have the impression that EMDR is going to be a quick fix for them.
As an EMDR therapist, I have had some clients who experienced remarkable healings, sometimes in a handful of sessions. These rapid transformations usually occurred with clients who have had experience a single traumatic event-( i.e., accidents, crimes, medical/surgical trauma). All of the “rapid transformers” enjoyed healthy, supportive intimate relationships and were free from substance abuse issues. They hailed from solid family backgrounds and had close, nurturing relationships with their parents. None suffered from any other problem that might complicate their trauma recovery. They didn’t struggle with anxiety or depression, and they didn’t live a life fraught with stress.
The rapid transformer all had this basic story in common: life was basically smooth sailing and then something really bad happened out of the blue.
When these remarkable, rapid healings take place they can be hard to believe. But they do happen and word gets around. I believe that one of the reasons that EMDR is sometimes seen as a “quick fix” is because most experienced EMDR therapist’s have had their share of these cases.
So the reality for most people is that EMDR won’t be a quick fix. The type of trauma, your life circumstances and the presence of other complicating factors all will determine the length of therapy. EMDR psychotherapy is likely to be extremely helpful and go much faster than other therapy modalities. It also is likely to help resolve traumatic memories and feelings that other modalities won’t touch.
EMDR Doesn’t Work For_______________
Feel free to fill in the blank with any of the following: complex trauma, dissociation, repeated trauma, pain, anxiety disorders, phobias, people on the Autistic spectrum, social anxiety disorder, fear of public speaking, etc.
These myths are something I hear regularly.
But here is the reality: I’ve heard all of the above falsehoods and I’ve seen EMDR psychotherapy work with all of them.
These inaccurate beliefs about EMDR seems to have two major sources: 1) Therapists with no training in EMDR psychotherapy and 2) Online forums. Remember 50 percent of what you read in an online forum is probably false, or missing some important facts.
It’s true, no psychotherapy modality works for everyone and for all problems. People are unique. And EMDR can work well with a wide variety of people and problems.
EMDR Psychotherapy Is Controversial
Psychology is like the rest of the world. It’s filled with turf wars. Some therapists are only trained in one way of working and are closed to other ways of working.
For my entire career, there have been some clinicians who have not liked EMDR psychotherapy. When I worked at a clinic which served abused and neglected children,I remember one clinical program director who asked me to sign a contract attesting that I would not practice EMDR in the clinic. She insisted that everyone practice using a particular “Family Systems Therapy”, a popular modality in the 1960s.
Likewise, I remember another clinical director, in a different program who encouraged me to do “exposure therapy” with trauma clients. That was her favorite modality. She did not like EMDR psychotherapy and discouraged it’s use. I never found a single client at that clinic that wanted to do exposure therapy for trauma recovery.
These two clinicians had strong beliefs about the way therapists should work. Both of them described EMDR psychotherapy as “controversial”.
So here is what I know; many things that are controversial needn’t be.
Consider this; a 2014 meta analysis found EMDR psychotherapy significantly reduces the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression and distress. I’ve seen it tremendously benefit many clients. It might be helpful for you too!
If you are would like to learn how EMDR psychotherapy can help you read more here.