Open questions about EMDR

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Thoughts about EMDR ( what is EMDR ?)

innter EMDRAndrew Solomon has written a book called «The noonday demon» (2001) based on his own experience with depression. He has travelled the world to find answers to what depression is and how to treat it, for himself and to help others. He tried different types of treatment strategies, and rated them afterwards. For him, medication was necessary, but he found other therapeutic methods helpful as well. One of them was EMDR

He writes: «I was convinced that it was a cute but insignificant system and was very much surprised by the results» «I was flooded with incredibly powerful images from childhood, things I hadn`t know were even in my brain. I could form association in no time at all: My mind became speedier thana it`s ever been, p 141».fbcd7b34c340acf7f3a4f2773445698f

In the same book he talks with Elliot Valenstein, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience. He explains «The medications are excellent and we are grateful to the companies for making them, but it`s a shame that the educational process isn`t balanced better. Further, because industry funds many of the largest and most comprehensive studies; There are more studies of new drug therapies than of other new treatments such as EMDR, p 394»

I use EMDR a lot, and am still impressed by its effects. True enough, it doesn`t always lead to revelations, but I haven`t encountered one person who doesn`t feel calmer while using it. Maybe this is because my clients want to be nice, but it can`t be all, can it? When it comes to real traumatic events, it can work magic. Still, too little research is done, and I already have so many research questions waiting for an answer. One of them is based on an evolutionary principle: We were originally born to live in the wild. We used our whole body much of the day: We had to run, hunt, make tools and interact in a much more physical way than many do now. I still love to use «both sides of my body» when I write, when I swim, and when I walk. I always feel calmer when I do, and I wonder if this might have some connection with EMDR. Are we maybe made for bilateral movement? Are we supposed to switch from one side to the other? Is this integration?

We know that women have a larger corpus callosum than males, and we also know about other differences between men and women. We need the «interaction» of logic with feelings, so that we don`t react to

Cuerpo calloso / Corpus callosum
Pinned by Paloma Guerra

Paloma Guerra

Paloma Guerra • 2 weeks ago

emotional, but also because we need to appreciate our emotions when we choose. Antonio Damasio was a pioneer when it comes to the last principle. He showed that we make better judgements when we trust our gut feelings, and that people with certain personality traits have problems with figuring out the best «rule» when deciding between alternativatives (some sociopaths are known for taking risks that normally would be inhibited by reactions of fear in others). If sociopaths were more sensitive to fear, and had more access to compassion, what would be the results?

Many daily activities are bilateral. Bicycling, swimming, walking, gesturing and dancing are rhythmical left-right. I wonder if this rapid shifting from one side to the other, might be one of the important elements in EMDR. There are some studies that look at EMDR and other bilateral stimulation, such as sounds or small, electrical currents delivered to first the left and then the right hand, and they point to an effect even then. Still, eye movements from left to right, has the strongest effect, so even if it helps, it doesn`t look like other modes of stimulation has the same potential. Until we know more, I will continue with my holistic approach, using both sides of my body as much I can. I have ONE body, and I think its important to not ignore parts of it. Isn`t this was integration is all about?

What is Bilateral Stimulation? | Anxiety Release

EMDR Explained: The Who, What, Where and How of EMDR 

Bilateral Music | EMDR and Beyond

EMDR: Eye movements help trauma victims

How EMDR opens a window for traumatized people

Andrew Solomon on Shameful Profiling of the Mentally Ill by Immigration Officials

12 thoughts on “Open questions about EMDR

    ashpalo said:
    March 27, 2014 at 16:13

    My therapist also helps me to connect the sides of my brain by writing things, which is why blogging works so well for me to cope and to problem-solve. I also deal with nightmares of my trauma by writing them down and changing the endings, which is said to help deal with the after-effects of nightmares.

    I’ve been told that EMDR is best approached after some amount of CBT therapy, and only in combination with medication. What are your thoughts on the influence EMDR has on your patients? Do you feel it has the potential to re-traumatize individuals who are not properly prepared for the experience?

      niinjah said:
      March 27, 2014 at 16:21

      Good and important feedback. It is true that the therapist need to check how prepared the client is, when I started with EMDR I had an episode where I should have waited, and sometimes the clients are simply more interested in talking. I always combine EMDR with other approaches, and if the client has severe problems with dissociation it’s good to wait; Since the switching back and worth can bring forward memories they weren’t prepared for. The client must have some interest in the unknown, and be comfortable with some loss of control (but we also safeguard against this by giving them instrument to regulate the direction which we’re heading). I am more dynamically oriented, but use interventions from CBT when it fits. But EMDR would be a good supplement to a very cognitive focus! Hope that answered some of your questions and that your journey will bring you where you need to go (and that the goal will be what you hope for)

        ashpalo said:
        March 27, 2014 at 16:30

        Thank you for your opinion. I think I’m still too focused on controlling my memories and reducing their influence to step into a more intense therapy. I believe you’re very wise to intervene when necessary, with CBT or simple talk-therapy. If I were to attempt EMDR, I think I’d be more trusting of a therapist who is comfortable with straying from the process for my best interest.

        mirrorgirl responded:
        March 27, 2014 at 16:34

        You are very wise to chose your own path, and writing a new ending is one technique I really like. In one EMDR session a client did just that, and it was really powerful. We can chose the paths we want, and we can decide if we keep going or sit down and wait for the past to catch up with us. Trauma is a struggle, every day, and I have immense respect for the battle many face and go through with their heads raised.

        Keep having your own mind, and listen to it , there is a lot of strength there:)

        ashpalo said:
        March 27, 2014 at 16:42

        Thank you for the compliment. Keeping my “head up” is definitely a struggle. I can go for days feeling balanced and healthy, only for the smallest influence to drag me down in an instance. I know the only way to “graduate” from a life of weekly therapy and meetings is to move forward and make intentional efforts to get past my trauma. But I feel right now that just joining a process group and finding a non-military-installation psychology office are big steps, especially having just been through an extended hospitalization!

        mirrorgirl responded:
        March 27, 2014 at 16:52

        it sounds like slow steps is the right options right now, maybe with somebody walking along with you if you feel shaky:)

        And if it`s hard to think about walking, just breathe 🙂

        ashpalo said:
        March 27, 2014 at 16:56


    Cat's Meow said:
    March 28, 2014 at 13:15

    In my experience, the capability of the clinician can make a huge experience. Several years ago, my T and I decided that I might benefit from EMDR to help me get past my phobic reactions (due to a history of child sexual abuse) in my sexual relationship with my husband. At that point, there was only one true expert in EMDR in our area and she was about to leave the country for a year to go and teach EMDR abroad. I was able to have 5 or 6 sessions with her and they were immensely helpful. I finally broke through some of the barriers that previously seemed to be insurmountable and the results were astonishing.

    Given how incredibly useful it was for me, my T and I searched out another clinician in a neighboring city who at least had the second level of training. For whatever reason, my experience with him was completely different. In fact, it ended up being deeply retraumatizing. He wanted to help and tried to help, but I kept on having more and more memories (or seeming memories) triggered. I still don’t have a clue as to whether a lot of the stuff that came up in those sessions actually happened when I was a child or not, but it still makes me nauseous to think about it at all.

    Since then, I have been extremely reluctant to try EMDR again. That was over 10 years ago and my own T has since gone through the 2nd level of training herself and done several more advanced trainings specific to working with people with dissociative disorders. I am starting to consider trying just a bit, if/when we next feel stuck. At least I know that she knows me well enough to keep me from being retraumatized.

      mirrorgirl responded:
      March 29, 2014 at 13:56

      It`s good to read this balanced feedback. I am really sad you met a therapist who gave you such a scare when it came to EMDR, that shouldn`t happen, and we therapists must always keep that in mind. I hope I haven`t retraumatized people I don`t know about, that would be terrible. I also agree that other approaches might work just as well, and research do show that a therapist you feel connected with, is the best treatment no matter which method they employ (if the method is validated, that is). I am not always sure what type of method I use, and my treatment is often tailored to the person in front of me. I see I often use elements of EMDR if I don`t use the eye movements: Using imagery and encouraging people to face their fear (after they have the energy and resources necessary to do this), in addition to finding the persons special strength (there is always something).

      I am glad you found a therapist you can trust, and who takes care of you. That is the most important thing, and it can bring anyone where they want to get, even if they feel depressed or anxious again. The problem is not the symptoms, but that we have problems living with them. Off course, this is simplified and not all one has to think about, but it is something 🙂

      Thank you again for the comment! I appreciate it:)

    […] In addition to relevant stories from people with different types of problems, he writes about the newest research and even test many of the methods himself. He is not afraid of testing even alternative approaches that hasn`t been researched much. This is done in a balanced way since he manages natural skepticism blended with openness for new experiences at the same time (he liked EMDR). […]

    […] In addition to relevant stories from people with different types of problems, he writes about the newest research and even test many of the methods himself. He is not afraid of testing even alternative approaches that hasn`t been researched much. This is done in a balanced way since he manages natural skepticism blended with openness for new experiences at the same time (he liked EMDR). […]

    […] may be necessary in trauma treatment, van der Kolk likes to tell the story of his training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), an approach held in very low esteem by many of his research colleagues. Although he initially […]

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