Emotional & Mental Wellness
How Do I Know If EMDR Therapy Is Right For Me?
By Cody Mitts, Licensed Professional Counselor & EMDR Therapist
What You Should Know About EMDR Therapy
Has someone suggested you try EMDR therapy?
Perhaps a friend recommended it after the positive effect it had in their life.
EMDR can be a very effective form of therapy but it’s important that you understand how it works and what you can expect from it.
EMDR therapy is a relatively new form of therapy that began in the 1980’s by Dr. Francine Shapiro. It’s been quickly growing as one of the leading treatments for PTSD and trauma related problems.
In this article we’ll explore some things you should know to help you decide if EMDR therapy is the right type of treatment for you.
- What is EMDR therapy used for?
- Are there risks involved in EMDR therapy?
- How to know if you’re ready for EMDR therapy
- How long does EMDR therapy take to work?
What is EMDR therapy used for?
EMDR therapy is most commonly used to treat PTSD and trauma related problems. It’s becoming one of the leading treatments for trauma around the world.
While EMDR is most well known as a trauma therapy it’s expanding as a treatment for many mental health problems. Check out this article to learn more about common examples of trauma.
One area of this growth is the treatment of anxiety and anxiety related issues such as panic attacks or phobia’s. While many anxiety treatments help you deal with the symptoms of anxiety, EMDR therapy can help you address the root cause of your anxiety or fear.
EMDR therapy can also be used to effectively help you deal with depression. Often times depression can be a symptom of other problems in your life, and EMDR therapy can help you work through those problems that are adding to your depression.
Some of the important areas that EMDR therapy can be helpful include:
- Trauma or PTSD
- Chronic pain
- Childhood trauma or complex trauma
- Unresolved grief
- Eating disorders
- Treating addictions
- Phobia’s or fears
Are there risks from using EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy is considered to be a safe form of therapy treatment, and EMDR therapy is recommended by many of the leading mental health organizations around the world.
With any type of psychological treatment you should consider possible side effects.
There is the possibility that you will experience some emotional or physical discomfort during treatment. This is because you’re working through emotionally painful memories or experiences during EMDR treatment.
It’s important to note that EMDR therapy should never feel overwhelming! Effective therapy is not meant to re-traumatize you or leave you feeling overwhelmed by your emotions. It will be important that you talk with your therapist about the difference between experiencing some emotional discomfort and feeling overwhelmed.
Due to the nature of EMDR therapy people often recall memories they haven’t remembered for a long time. It’s also possible that you may experience unusual dreams shortly after an EMDR therapy session.
Talk with your therapist about the possible side effects of EMDR and what you should do if you experience uncomfortable memories or dreams.
How to know if you’re ready for EMDR therapy
If you’re considering EMDR therapy you’ll want to consider if you’re ready to do the work required of this type of psychological treatment.
One important way to determine if you’re ready for EMDR therapy is knowing if you can tolerate your emotions.
If you’re emotions feel overwhelming or if you tend to shut down when you feel an emotion you may not be ready for EMDR treatment.
EMDR therapy relies on your body and mind’s ability to process through your thoughts and feelings. If you’re unable to process in that way, EMDR therapy may not be effective.
This doesn’t mean you can’t do EMDR. It simply means you have some more preparation work before you’ll experience the full benefits of EMDR.
Talk with your therapist about how to know when you’re ready for EMDR therapy. Together you can prepare for treatment and make therapy as effective as possible.
The goal of EMDR therapy is not to overwhelm your emotions or thoughts.
How long does EMDR therapy take to work?
Many people find EMDR therapy to be helpful because it can accelerate your healing. This doesn’t mean it’s a quick fix, it simply means it can help you process some things more effectively.
As you’re deciding if EMDR therapy is right for you, it’s important to consider how long you’ll need to be in treatment to get the best results.
The length of therapy can always depend on your unique situation.
If you’ve been engaging in therapy for a long time, you may be able to feel the effects of EMDR therapy more rapidly. If you’re experiencing therapy for the first time it may take a little longer to prepare for the work.
A general rule of thumb is that it will take at least 10-12 sessions to see the effects of EMDR therapy.
EMDR therapy has what’s known as the 8 Phases of EMDR Treatment, which is simply a way to describe the process your therapist will use during EMDR therapy.
These 8 phases of EMDR therapy are:
- Getting a history of your life experiences
- Preparing you to work through some negative experiences in your past
- Determining what past experiences you will need to work through
- Working through some of these old memories
- Implementing more positive beliefs or strengths
- Working through any physical symptoms from your thoughts
- Finding closure for these past negative memories
- Reevaluating each session to make sure processing was successful
EMDR therapy can be effective when other treatments don’t work
EMDR therapy is a unique form of therapy.
Traditional types of therapy are often referred to as Talk Therapy.
One of the things that makes EMDR unique is that there is less verbal processing involved.
The way that EMDR therapy works is by activating your body’s own psychological healing abilities. When this happens you’re emotions and thoughts are allowed to process things without actually talking about what you’re experiencing.
This can be valuable if you’ve experienced something that’s too painful for you to discuss. EMDR can be effective without you having to share much detail about what happened.
This doesn’t mean talking is not involved. Talking is more limited and you’re using a technique known as free association during EMDR.
If you’ve tried other types of therapy and haven’t found the success you’re looking for, EMDR therapy might be a good option for you to consider.
Talk with a professional about deciding to use EMDR therapy
Before you engage with any type of therapy it’s always a good idea to talk with other professionals.
You can call a therapist that practices EMDR therapy to get a better idea of how it works, and if it might be the right type of treatment for you.
Talking with other professionals such as your doctor, psychiatrist, or chiropractor could be a good way to begin exploring this treatment option and seeing if they recommend anyone to you.
The internet can offer a lot of information but finding the most accurate and helpful information about EMDR therapy might be challenging.
As a therapist I believe in EMDR therapy because of the positive impact it’s had on my own life. You can check out another article I wrote about how EMDR therapy changed my life.
I provide EMDR therapy in Denver, Colorado and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Cody Mitts, MA, NCC, LPC
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