I said I would be writing about my experiences with EMDR therapy and It’s been awhile since my first post about it. I’ve had some difficulty writing about it because although the sessions and the treatment seem simple and straight forward, I find its effects anything but. Also, the nature of the treatment makes it hard for me to convey my experiences accurately with words.
A typical session begins by selecting a starting point for visualization. It can pretty much be in any location or situation I want but we’ve focused it around my trauma event. From the starting point I simply visualize and sort of watch a movie in my mind. As my therapist taps my knees gently, my mind takes me where it chooses, much in the same way your mind might wander from point to point while daydreaming. Initially as my movie plays across the screen of my mind I am taken many different places. It can be unrelated to the starting point of thought and/or the present circumstances, it could even be about last nights dinner.
I just realized I don’t actually know how long each tapping session lasts but after a time my therapist stops and we talk about where I am in my “movie” and what I am feeling both internally and externally. After that she begins again. As the session continues my mind, even if its jumping, is playing memories, feelings, perceptions and emotions across different points in my life. Most often it is within the timeframe of the chosen starting point from the beginning of the session. Again, she stops and we discuss where and when I am in my movie and the associated feelings.
We do this usually 3 to 4 times in a session. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how much time is devoted to talking in between. Often times talking in-between is an analyzing of a situation, my perception of it both before and now, and any feelings and emotions associated with it. At the conclusion we might talk about each stopping point in this manner or a summation of the entire session.
There is no right or wrong in any part of this therapy. I am told that after the sessions your, or in this case my, brain keeps working behind the scenes. Although it’s unclear to me the exact mechanisms at work, the brain continually processes the experiences of the sessions; doing the work of reprocessing and re-association of events, feelings, and emotions into new and less traumatic and stressful associations. The consequence of which is to lessen or ultimately remove the traumatic triggers. For me these triggers are both in relation to PTSD and panic and anxiety disorders.
In the days after the sessions I notice a marked spike in my general anxiety levels. I’ve been known to have additional or more pronounced panic attacks and more episodes of agoraphobia. This heightened state usually lessons as the days pass.
Oftentimes it feels as though I am regressing by being more symptomatic but as the weeks have passed I have a greater understanding of myself and a clearer and better understanding of what’s happening to me both mentally and physically. By stepping back and looking at things as a whole I can tell I have, and continue to, benefit from this therapy.
I am not the typical EMDR patient addressing one specific PTSD traumatic event, but rather a series of events linked by trauma and debilitating panic and anxiety disorders. Consequently, the therapy is very much tweaked and adapted to my situation. I do not have sessions every week because my therapist has found I respond better having the extra processing time. The extra time allows me to return to a better baseline of functioning. From there we begin again.
Like many things, this therapy requires work, patience, and faith. I have hope that I will attain the best possible results from EMDR and will again share my experiences with it as things unfold.