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EMDR is one of the best treatments for PTSD

Psychologist in her office; Image by <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2647941">Clayton</a> from <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2647941">Pixabay</a>
Image by Clayton from Pixabay

Do you suffer from PTSD, and feel like your symptoms are getting in the way of your life?

Are you worried that your life is never going to go back to normal after your trauma?

Has PTSD damaged your relationship with your family, or disrupted your ability to work?

Are you afraid to leave the house, or go to strange places?

PTSD can do all of these things and more, if it is left untreated. I suffered with these symptoms for years. Even when things were going well, I was still easily triggered when the smallest things would go wrong.

When you leave PTSD untreated, or try to "power through" on your own and pretend to be fine, it can have sometimes disastrous consequences on your life.

I tried my hardest to pretend that I was fine, that I was normal, for years. It was only when I lost a good job due to frequent PTSD-related panic attacks that I got into the intensive therapy that was needed to better my life.

Therapy can help

When you have PTSD, it can become difficult to do normal, daily activities because of your symptoms, so finding therapy is very important.

Going to therapy is a great way to find a listening ear for your problems, learn coping skills, and find ways to lessen the impact of your trauma on your daily life.

Finding the right therapist who is a good fit is really important.

It is helpful to find a therapist who specializes in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), because this is one of the most effective treatments for PTSD.

According to The Cleaveland Clinic,

EMDR therapy is very common around the world. In the United States, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense list EMDR as a “best practice” in treating veterans experiencing PTSD. Research on EMDR includes dozens of clinical trials, research studies and academic papers. It has official approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) and government organizations and agencies in the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany, among others.

In research studies, EMDR has been shown as being extremely effective to treat PTSD. Although it is different from the typical talk-therapy that we are all used to, and may seem scary to try, it is a very useful and well tested form of therapy.

According to EMDR,

More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense.

In my personal healing journey from PTSD, I have found EMDR to be one of the best treatments that I've used. I think everyone with PTSD should give EMDR a shot, because it really does help to lessen the effects of your trauma on your daily life.

What is EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy where you will reprocess the traumatic memories with the help of your therapist, so that when you remember them, it will no longer feel like you are reexperiencing the trauma.

According to EMDR,

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

When you go to EMDR sessions, you will focus on just one traumatic experience per session, and work on clearing the trauma response that you have been experiencing with regard to that specific memory.

After the session, if you have gotten the trauma memory completely reprocessed, you will be able to think about the traumatic event without feeling triggered like you did before.

This is so helpful to getting your life back on track, because you won't be constantly in a hyper-aware and reactive state of mind.

Getting Started

Before you start with EMDR sessions, you'll get to know your therapist through talk therapy sessions. They'll want to be sure that you are regulating your emotions using coping skills before launching directly into EMDR sessions.

My therapist worked with me in talk therapy for 6 months before recommending that I start EMDR.

Depending on how well you are coping with your daily life, if you are having panic attacks, flashbacks or nightmares, you will probably also consult with a psychiatrist about medications prior to beginning your EMDR treatments.

Once the therapist believes that you are ready to start EMDR, they will teach you some basic grounding skills to use within the sessions.

Some of these are the "safe space" and the "container."

The Safe Space is an image that you create in your mind of a place where you feel completely safe, and like no one will be able to hurt you. This is somewhere you can visualize yourself going any time that your feelings get too intense. It can be a real place where you feel safe, or somewhere completely imaginary. The key is to imagine yourself there in vivid detail.

The Container is a box that you'll visualize. You picture yourself releasing all your negative thoughts and emotions from your mind and body, and going into the container. Then you close the lid and put those things away. That way, you can visualize those triggering thoughts no longer effecting you.

Both of these are ways to mentally protect yourself through using visualization, and the therapist will probably have you practice this both in session and at home before you start EMDR.

Using these visualization techniques, if you unlock difficult or upsetting feelings during your session, you will be able to cope with them and not go into a panic.

During the time that you work with your therapist prior to beginning EMDR, it is important to establish trust and rapport, so that you are able to completely open up to your therapist about the trauma you have experienced.

While you are establishing this rapport, it is important to make sure your therapist is a good fit. If you don't have a trusting and open relationship, you may wish to get a referral to a different therapist that is a better fit. Sometimes your first therapist isn't the person you will be able to work with, for whatever reason.

Processing trauma requires a great deal of trust, so it is important to make sure you are working with the right therapist for you before you begin your EMDR sessions.

According to MedCircle,

If you are considering treatment that includes EMDR, there are things you can look for when choosing your therapist.

  • Choose a clinically trained EMDR therapist. EMDR requires a highly specialized type of training that goes beyond general therapeutic training. Not every therapist is sufficiently trained in this type of intervention. Ask about the therapist’s specific EMDR training and experience.

  • While not required to provide EMDR, consider choosing a certified EMDR therapist. Look for the EMDRIA certification. These therapists have undergone extensive, standardized training in this work. They utilize specific practices and protocols designed to facilitate your safety and healing.

  • Ask questions. You want to feel comfortable with your therapist. How many cases like yours have they treated? What is their success rate?

  • If something feels wrong or uncomfortable, tell your therapist. You won’t hurt their feelings and they can’t help you if you don’t tell what you’re experiencing.

  • If something sounds too good to be true, keep looking. Nothing is 100%. Nothing is a guaranteed cure. And more expensive doesn’t mean better any more than less expensive means worse. Find a clinician that fits your needs, your budget and your level of comfort.

Processing Trauma

In your EMDR sessions, you will work on processing your trauma. This is a very regimented and specific practice that is intended to help you reprocess your trauma in a way that the memories are no longer so triggering.

At the beginning of my sessions, my therapist would ask me how upsetting the memory was, on a scale of 1-10. Then, we would work on that memory until it got down to a level of 1 or 0 on how upsetting it was.

Some memories will take more than one session to get down to a 0. That is perfectly normal, at least that was my experience. The more disturbing the memory is, the more sessions that it will take.

When you reprocess the trauma, the therapist will give you a set of buzzers to hold in your hand while you think back to the memory as if it is happening. Then, you will work through all of the emotions, thoughts, and negative beliefs about the experience.

You will work on it both mentally, and how you experience the memory in your body. By focusing on both the body and the mind, it allows you to understand the memory in different ways.

For me, there were a lot of things I thought were my fault. Understanding them through EMDR helped me to see what I could have done differently in some situations had I known better, and to realize that what happened to me wasn't my fault.

It can be a long and difficult process, especially if you have multiple traumas, but it is well worth it in the end.

Now, I can look back on those trauma memories without feeling triggered over the situations in the past.

Why is EMDR Controversial?

EMDR is a new therapy that has only been around since 1989, and there has been some controversy surrounding why it works.

According to MedCircle,

The biggest source of concern seems to be related to the use or rather, misuse, of EMDR. EMDR is a powerful clinical tool that requires a therapist with a high level of expertise.

This is why it is so important to make sure you have the right therapist. If your therapist is not well-trained in the procedure, then you could leave the session feeling triggered and upset.

I have heard stories of people for whom EMDR did not work, and it sounds like the therapist's lack of training was the main reason behind this problem.

So, if you are concerned about the possible risks of EMDR, or feeling triggered during and after the session, be sure to address these concerns with your therapist beforehand.

A good therapist will work through your fears with you.

Also, you can ask about your therapist's qualifications, and how long they have been doing EMDR. This should give you a better understanding of whether you are working with the right therapist.

Even if you feel your therapist is unqualified to do EMDR, you may keep working with them in talk therapy if that is productive, and go to a second therapist for your EMDR sessions. This is what I did at first, because my main therapist had just started EMDR training, and didn't feel qualified to work with someone with my level of trauma.

However, after working for a while doing EMDR with a different therapist, I changed over and started doing EMDR with my main therapist instead, since he had more training by that point.

The main thing to remember is that every situation is going to be different, and you have to do what works for you. Only you will be able to determine if your therapist is a good fit, and you feel comfortable with the therapy you are receiving.


Using EMDR as a treatment for your trauma can be a powerful way to lessen the effects of PTSD on your day to day life. As you build rapport with your therapist and work to clear your traumas, it can help you to stop being so fixated on the traumatic experiences.

After going through EMDR sessions, you will be able to understand your trauma in a more logical and less triggering way. It will help you be able to focus on your recovery and coping skills, instead of being caught up constantly on the trauma memories.

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