As an Emdr therapist, I get questions. Often questions about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) come from clients who have have heard or read about it’s efficacy and want to know more.
Probably the most common question about EMDR is the following:
What Is EMDR Therapy And How Does It Work?
EMDR is a psychotherapy modality that is integrative. It contains elements of treatment that exist in other approaches, and combines them. This creates a potent method for resolving traumatic symptoms.
The Emdr Institute is the main source of training for EMDR therapists. They describe the benefit of what is called Adaptive Information Processing. This means that successful EMDR treatment facilitates the resolution of traumatic memory by helping the brain process adverse experience and create new associations.
Can EMDR be used for anxiety?
Absolutely. EMDR treatment developed as a way to address PTSD. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is considered and anxiety disorder.
As an EMDR therapist, I have been honored to assist a variety of patients in healing from anxiety. We have used EMDR therapy to successfully treat:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Attacks
How Long Does It Take For EMDR To Work?
Like every EMDR therapist, I have seen EMDR therapy produce a range of outcomes. On the one hand I’ve worked with patients who I call “super-responders”. They usually come into therapy with a single incident trauma that has been causing them some problems. But otherwise, they are doing really well. Their mood is stable and positive and their relationships are healthy.
At the other end of the spectrum are the slow and steady responders. These patients often take longer to heal. Frequently, these patients have complicated presentations. They have early life trauma, plus major incident trauma. For example, years ago I worked with a client I’ll call Marcello. Not only did he grow up in a violent home but he also escaped from his homeland when his country was torn apart by a war. EMDR helped him enormously, but as you can imagine, his therapy took years.
Every one of us is unique. Some of us have problems that are pretty simple and straightforward. Other have difficulties that are more complicated.
How long EMDR takes depends on a variety of factors such as:
- Have you suffered from a single traumatic incident? If so, these tend to resolve most quickly
- Do you have Complex PTSD? If your trauma symptoms arise from a history of multiple or repeated trauma, EMDR treatment is likely to take longer.
- Do you have other complications? If you are suffering from depression, relationship problems, high work stress, it’s probably going to take longer.
Is EMDR Covered By Insurance?
Possibly. As with all things insurance related, the answer to this question depends on the policy you have purchased. So if insurance coverage for your EMDR therapy is important to you, it’s vital that you check with your company.
My practice is entirely fee for service, that means I don’t contract directly with any insurance company. At any given time, I typically have a few clients who request a superbill from me so that they may seek reimbursement. I personally have not had any client have any client tell me their claim has been denied.
This of course is not the case if your insurance company only allows for in- network treatment. If so, they will likely monitor your therapy and dictate which treatment modalities they will pay for.
What is an EMDR session like?
Psychotherapy treatment modalities vary widely. One way they differ, is in the amount of structure that they have. This varies both within each session, and over the course of treatment as a whole. It’s a continuum. On one end of it, many therapists offer “unstructured talk therapy” in which the treatment goals are never fully articulated and the therapist offers little to no guidance, provides no education and teaches no skills.
On the other end there are types of therapy which are more structured. Each session has a goal, and there are specific treatment goals that shape the course of therapy. In structured therapies, there are tasks for each session as well for the treatment as a whole. Most trauma specialists structure the treatment. This is because typically, clients with trauma histories don’t progress in unstructured therapy. In fact, unstructured therapies can be harmful for trauma clients. EMDR sessions are typically structured according the EMDR treatment protocol
If you have been a patient in any type of structured psychotherapy, for example CBT, then probably an EMDR session would be pretty familiar to you. In EMDR therapy, I guide you and ask you to focus your attention on certain reactions. These typically include:
- Image and memories
- Thought and beliefs
- Body sensation and impulses
As you to this I will guide you in doing some simple, gentle back and forth, rhythmic eye movemenents.
Usually an EMDR session looks like this:
- We begin with a few minutes of talking (Following up on previous session, getting an update on symptoms)
- Using Emdr to calm the nervous system
- Processing traumatic memories
- Closing conversation and review of the EMDR session
What are the side effects of EMDR?
Any form of effective therapy has potential side effects.
Over the years, very few of my clients have reported any distressing side effects.
But some have. These have included:
- Feeling “sensitive” after our sessions
- Discovering feeling and thoughts they did not previously know they had
- Relationship stress
- Intense dreams or nightmares
- Discovery of traumatic memories they “thought they were over” or forgot about
- Seeing themselves and loved ones differently
EMDR is powerful therapeutic tool. In my work with clients I make every effort to guide our work so that it is as comfortable as possible.