When someone calls me to schedule an appointment, I often ask if they are familiar with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) and a frequent response is that they have heard of it, but don’t really know what it is, or they don’t understand how it works. This description is an easy-to-understand synopsis; for more information, you can read the more detailed description that the EMDR International Association has written here.
I usually begin my explanation by defining trauma as something that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. It doesn’t have to be a major trauma, such as abuse, war, natural disaster, violence of any type (witnessed or experienced firsthand), but it can be conflict with family or friends, difficult school or job experiences, bullying, an abrupt move, financial difficulties, legal issues, etc. It can be chronic and ongoing in a person’s daily life, or it can be a one-time experience, such as being in a car accident or suffering medical trauma from a procedure.
I help them gain a basic understanding how the brain works, and how the left and right hemispheres operate when confronted with a traumatic event. The “left brain” controls our reasoning, logic and our analytical thought processes; we know logically that we are ok. But our “right brain” tells us otherwise. This is where creativity, seeing the big picture (versus just the parts), and the comprehension of emotions lies.
When trauma occurs, it can get stuck in the brain or “frozen in time,” with the individual experiencing the memory of the trauma as if it were the very first time (sensory information remembered). The past becomes the present over and over, and the original trauma has a lasting effect that negatively impacts the way an individual will act, think and see the world.
EMDR allows for links to be made from the left brain to the right brain for the disturbance to be resolved through bilateral stimulation, which is a process of using eye movement, tapping or vibrations to stimulate both sides of the body and brain. This allows for both sides of the brain to communicate with each other, which is a safe and natural process in the processing of the traumatic material. Strong emotional responses are relieved and negative beliefs derived from the trauma are challenged and usually resolved. EMDR also allows for adaptive information (facts, positive experiences, examples, and beliefs about self) to be assimilated into the disturbing event, providing a greater sense of self-efficacy and healthier self-esteem.
EMDR looks different for children than with adults. Because play is the child’s language, play therapy is used in conjunction with bilateral stimulation. A child gravitates toward drawing, using sandtray figurines or puppets to play out or act out their disturbance. Books and crafted stories (stories the therapist creates to help the child access and process the disturbance) are often used as well. Even during scheduled free-play, where child-centered play therapy techniques are used, the child often plays out the trauma. The EMDR therapist knows when to apply bilateral stimulation during the session and how to help the child move to a more adaptive place and healing. EMDR with children has been shown to be highly effective as the brain can heal from traumatic and/or disturbing experiences.
Because of the nature of EMDR, it can be an appropriate therapy for individuals on the Autism spectrum. For adults with ASD, it is important to be able to communicate any concerns, learning differences and accommodations needed. EMDR can be implemented with the traditional eye movement, tapping on the back of hands, knees or ankles with the therapist’s hands or a long paintbrush. Pulsars, which the individual holds or has taped to their shoulders, can also be used to provide the bilateral stimulation that is needed to process difficult material effectively.
EMDR can be engaged in while sitting quietly, with the therapist checking in to monitor the processing of the event/emotional disturbance, without a need for the individual to narrate. Other individuals on the spectrum prefer to talk the entire EMDR session, because there are vivid images and fantasy stories that emerge with the trauma, and it needs to be spoken. Both are acceptable and appropriate; it is important for you to communicate any concerns or requests with your therapist.
For children, there are often sensory issues that need to be addressed, with the child identifying the type of bilateral stimulation that can be acceptable or tolerated. Over time, it has been observed that the child with ASD becomes comfortable and accepting of the process. Play therapy is used, and a mixture of sand tray, books, free-play is used in conjunction with the bilateral stimulation. EMDR looks very different with children than with adults, but it is still been shown to be highly effective as the brain is able to heal from traumatic and/or disturbing experiences.
Robert Miller, PhD, developed the Feeling State Theory of Behavioral and Substance Addictions and EMDR protocol for addressing and eliminating various compulsions and addictions (objects, behaviors, a person) that are linked with a positive or intensely desired feeling. Once the individual’s feeling is fixated with the behavior, whenever he/she seeks that feeling, the addictive behavior is repeated, even though it may be out of their consciousness.
The EMDR therapist trained in this protocol recognizes that the feeling is a natural healthy desire related to a specific need (safety, relational winning or sensation/alive related). The addiction is linked to that desire. This healthy need is addressed, and after the link to behavior is identified, it is broken through a specialized EMDR protocol. Once the link is broken, the individual can see the behavior as though looking at it through a set of new eyes, gaining the insight and ability to make healthier choices.
This approach works with behavioral addictions, such as pornography, sexual fetishes, co-dependence and relationship addictions (“Why do I go back to the same type of harmful person?), food addictions, gambling, video addiction, self-harm, overworking, need for approval and success, being good, and giving the shirt off your back etc. It also works for substance addictions such as nicotine, drugs and alcohol.
Diane is an Approved EMDR Consultant and Certified EMDR Therapist for EMDR therapists seeking EMDRIA certification. She also provides ad hoc consultation for EMDR therapists seeking to improve their skills. Her specialties are complex trauma with children and adults, attachment injury and trauma (for children and adults), dissociative disorders, behavior addictions implementing the Positive Feeling State Theory and Protocol, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stabilization and resourcing for EMDR Telehealth clients.
Diane comes with a strong foundation in complex trauma, with certification in the Trauma Model Therapy, by Dr. Colin Ross, which provides adaptive information that complex clients require in order to move through their trauma processing. She also utilizes Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy (DNMS) in resourcing clients in preparation for EMDR processing.
Individual consultation is $120 per one-hour session.
Group consultation with 2 therapists is $80 per hour. In a two-hour session, one hour is applied toward your individual consultation requirement and one hour applied to your group consultation. For more than 2 therapists, group consultation is $70 per hour.
Contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Something changed the first time I had EMDR and if I could put one word to it... it would be hope"
By Colleen West, LMFT, EMDR Certified Therapist
By Colleen West, LMFT, EMDR Certified Therapist
A comment from Diane Kimball, LMHC: Colleen shows how EMDR can be used effectively with children. However when there is an attachment injury or profound/prolonged abuse, healing takes place over a longer period of time. Karyn Purvis, one of the cofounders of TBRI, believes that it takes 3 years in an attachment rich environment for a child to experience “felt safety.” I have seen this with my clients who have come from hard places, where therapy is long. I believe EMDR enhances and speeds up the healing process for these children and their families.