It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
EMDR in My Practice
The most important thing I can say about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is this: I am truly awed by its effects. I incorporated EMDR into my practice because in all my years of study I haven’t seen its power equaled by any other method.
When I began using EMDR as a therapist a number of years ago, I watched my clients’ work deepen and grow profoundly. In some ways this wasn’t surprising. I already had witnessed the powerful changes EMDR catalyzed in my own life—my world became larger and more joyful. Moments of distress decreased dramatically, and I experienced a vastness to my spiritual world that I had never known.
EMDR originally was developed and used to help clients heal from prolonged trauma, such as abuse, or single-incident trauma, such as rape or a car accident. Research shows that EMDR is extremely effective in these cases, helping people dissolve the emotional charge from the story or memory associated with their distress. While I’ve seen EMDR produce deep and lasting effects for trauma, I frequently use it to help my clients deal with everyday issues as well.
For example, I might spontaneously suggest using EMDR to help deal with a bout of anxiety that comes up during our time together. Rather than set up a dedicated EMDR treatment, I weave it organically and intuitively into our regular sessions. Here too, in these everyday situations, I have found the results of applied EMDR nothing short of profound.
Because I work collaboratively, I like to suggest rather than impose a given method. As with any of my suggestions, you’re always free to accept or decline.
Benefits of EMDR
When my clients and I tap into their unconscious using EMDR, they access insight and shifts uncommonly arrived at through other modalities. Instant cognitive breakthroughs are very common. For example, clients can come in having told the same story of self-doubt, self-criticism or despair for years, and in a single EMDR session, radically shift their view of themselves and their world. This can be incredibly freeing, and can engender leaps of clarity and self-insight. I’ve seen many “Aha!” moments following EMDR sessions.
On a psychospiritual level, I’ve witnessed clients transform stuck emotions of fear, anger, and rage into compassion, love, and forgiveness, toward themselves and others—even others who had caused them great pain. Clients commonly use words like “grounded,” “alive,” “joyful,” and “aligned” to describe their experience. Some report a sense of vast openness, or of spaciousness—a feeling of being held by the ground below and the space around us. Almost everyone says they feel more relaxed.
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It refers to a therapeutic process proven through many studies to reduce the effects of trauma for up to 90% of the clients who use it.
EMDR was originally administered by directing a client’s eyes back and forth to stimulate the two hemispheres of the brain. Now, however, therapists use a number of methods to activate both the right and left sides of the body to produce the same effects. I prefer to work by tapping gently on the knees. If a client would rather not be touched, I suggest the eye method, which is similarly effective.
Different theories have been advanced about why EMDR works. One says that it duplicates what the brain does during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, reprocessing and integrating our experience of events into our consciousness. Another says that it unblocks stuck material by regulating phase discrepancies between the brain’s hemispheres.
Here’s how I see what EMDR does: Through imparting the feelings of calm I mentioned above, it helps catalyze a major physiological transformation. The left, or cognitive side of the brain, helps the right, more emotional side of the brain, to replace its distressing emotions and stories, even longstanding ones, with more empowering truths. Another way of thinking about it is that EMDR helps the rational, grownup part of you give a hand to the scared, confused little kid part. This process mirrors a portion of what I do in the rest of my practice, only EMDR accelerates the healing tremendously.