Frequently Asked Questions about the comprehensive therapy approach:  EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

Actually, I DO have some challenges. But how does EMDR differ from “talk” therapy? I’ve tried it and it wasn’t very helpful.

First, there are about 1500 kinds of “talk” therapy, so it’s hard to generalize. All therapies need some talking, but EMDR goes beyond talk. It works with natural brain processes to promote their return to positive health.

What is the success rate and how long do I have to go to therapy

The answer to this depends on your treatment goals and your history. If you are concerned about one issue, or one event, research on EMDR shows it can resolve Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) within 1 to 3 sessions for 80-90% of clients. For clients who were neglected or severely traumatized or as children, or for patterns of events repeated over years, Trauma Therapies can take proportionately longer, up to 1-2, or more, years for early issues. Either way, it saves you time and money compared to less efficient therapies.

How do I decide which therapist is best for me?

  • Our EMDR therapists are licensed clinicians who completed thorough trainings offered in various specialties by approved trainers. 
  • ASK:  Are you EMDRIA-Certified?
  • How many have you helped with issues like mine? 
  • And talk long enough to get a sense of whether the person understands you and you have hope they can help you. This is the beginning of a therapeutic relationship, so your gut feeling is as important as reasoning out who has the necessary training, clinical judgment and successful experience to help you.

What can I do to help myself gain the most from my therapy?

  • Be prepared for the therapist to teach you self-soothing techniques during this time of recovery. Take a little time each day to practice these self-care skills.
  • Find those who are understanding in your support system, and invite them to read a little about the therapy you are doing, and ask specific ways they could help, such as:
  • Make a list of 3 ways that could be most supportive to you, and see if your dear one or friend feels comfortable doing those things. Feel free to get their input and ideas. They may think of something you like better than their ideas. Anyway, you will want the kind of support they feel capable of giving.
  • Invite supportive people to come to one session with the therapist to get information about your condition, the treatment and suggestions on how your support person or team can help.

I’ve heard about therapy having “homework.” Does EMDR Therapy have lots of homework?

Homework is not required, usually brief if suggested. Compare this with about ½ to 1 hour per day required during the course of treatment for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a respected form of “talk” therapy.  During the entire course of treatment this can total up to 100 hours of homework.

Changes with EMDR therapy can happen fast – but do they last?

After EMDR treatment is over, the treatment gains are maintained, or improved 15 months post-treatment.- per research by Wilson and Tinker, 1995

Why do you concentrate on one therapy — EMDR?

  • Because it is an exciting, positive way to achieve faster results. And there is so much confirming EMDR research for PTSD that EMDR is an accepted PTSD treatment by:
  • American Psychological Association
  • Department of Defense
  • Veteran’s Administration
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
  • Almost all insurance companies

How were EMDR Developed?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, (EMDR ) was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, a psychologist who made the spontaneous discovery that eye movements, combined with focused concentration on aspects of a memory, could assist the mind to rapidly decrease the disturbance under some circumstances. She was an ideal person to notice this, because she set about to methodically research the protocol she developed and published the successful results in 1989. Dr. Shapiro has encouraged many other researchers to do so much research that now there is more research on EMDR for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder than any other therapy. She has since developed EMDR into a comprehensive approach based on the Adaptive Information Processing model for explaining how well the brain can work when given appropriate assistance.

How does EMDR work?

How it works is attracting much research interest by brain researchers whose curiosity has been stimulated by the excellent results obtained from these powerful and unusual therapies. We still don’t know exactly how it does work (we don’t know how any therapy works within the brain), but we have clues, and expect to learn more and more due to the research interest of brilliant scientists.

It can be helpful to use a metaphor frequently used by trauma therapists. It is as if the brain is too full of negative information that didn’t get “digested” when the disturbance originally happened. It remains stuck in the system, much as when we eat too much food, drink too little water, and certain other factors are present, the digestive and eliminatory system can experience a very uncomfortable “blockage.” That waste material should have moved through some time ago, and if it had, there would not be such discomfort.

The children’s book, “Dark, Bad Day, Go Away!” by Ana Gomez, MA uses the term “Eyes Moving to Digest and Recover” to help children understand the concept.  Somehow the Eye Movements (or other forms of gentle, bilateral stimulation of the brain) do seem to help with emotional digestion. As that progresses, the negative “waste” products become less important. Positive beliefs about oneself (the “nutrition” within the food/experience) come to the fore. It may be something as simple as “It’s over. I AM safe now.” The experience can now be filed in it’s proper place in the long term memory. Clients say things like, “It seems far away, foggy” or “The war (that happened 20 years ago) is over and I can go home now.”

What kinds of problems can EMDR help?

For a complete list, that includes descriptions of how a trauma therapy can help various problems, please see our Psychotherapy Specialties.

Where can I check out the research on EMDR?

An excellent, up-to-date resource is the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the website of the EMDR Institute: www.emdr.com >