What EMDR Therapy is really like!

May 16, 2022 by Jennie Dalcour, Child & Family Therapist

In this episode of the Family Care Learning Podcast, we hear from Haley and Jennie who discuss what EMDR therapy is really like and how it can help people with PTSD and processing childhood trauma or painful memories. Learn more about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing below.

“Today we are talking about EMDR, which is a common approach to use in trauma therapy. Jennie, you and I have been talking about this for a while now, just really wanting there to be a better definition of what this type of therapeutic approach is,” Haley said.

The goal is to help parents decide whether or not this is probably a good route to take.

We have a couple of therapists at Arizona Family Counseling that are certified in EMDR, not just every therapist can do this approach. That’s something really important for parents to be aware of and kind of just have a better understanding of.

“Trauma is kind of a trending word right now and so I feel like if you go online, if you see influencers on social media, or if you Google it, you see a lot of topics or articles about EMDR, but we just wanna make sure that families really understand this a little bit more specifically if this is something that they are seeking out for their kiddos,” Haley said.

“I’m excited to give a little information to maybe pull back the curtain a little bit on this type of therapy because I think there are a lot of misconceptions and a lot of ideas about EMDR that maybe aren’t accurate,” Jennie said.

She said there is a process to become trained in EMDR and then beyond that to become certified in EMDR. This is something not every therapist is able to do.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

Jennie said a lot of the times eye movement isn’t used anymore but that’s what it was originally used for. Now, it’s using some of the brain’s natural processes to digest memory and make meaning of traumatic memory because traumatic memory gets frozen in the nervous system. Then that memory that gets frozen in the brain, the brain doesn’t know that it happened in the past and is not happening right now. When that memory is triggered that person feels like that trauma is happening in the moment and that kicks off all kinds of responses in the body.

“With EMDR, the purpose is to desensitize that process, to help the brain understand that happened in the past, I’m safe now,” Jennie said.

Jennies explained that when a child or adult is doing trauma processing it’s good if the family is prepared for the big feelings that can come up.

“They might have other memories come up, things that they haven’t thought about in a long time for a couple of weeks after a trauma processing session and then afterwards, then things start to really calm down and go to a new baseline,” she said.

Parents have to be very nurturing and in-tune to their child during this time and provide compassionate support that their child needs when they go through this trauma work.

Haley shared how sometimes things get rocky or worse before they get better but that’s a part of the healing process.

The prep work that goes into this type of therapy is very important. Creating healthy, secure attachment is really the safe holding container for all of this trauma and kids need that so desperately. “We do a lot of work to build that attachment,” Jennie said.

And it’s no quick fix. “If you need a short term, easy fix for really rough behaviors, this isn’t gonna be it,” Jennie said. “We may wanna start it anyway while we get some other short term fixes in place to help create that stability, but EMDR in and of itself is not gonna give you a quick. It’s just not fast,” she added.

In this type of therapy, therapists often use expressive therapy techniques to draw out these memories like using art or play, sand tray, drawing, etc.

Jennie demonstrates how this works. Please watch the video above to see how it works!