Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is an accelerated, evidenced-based approach to resolve distress associated with trauma, anxiety, panic, chronic pain, low self-esteem, patterns of disordered eating and body image.
What should I expect when I start EMDR with Anna Miller, LCSW?
Anna is a trained in EMDR, the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM) and Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Basic Skills. These modalities work together to bridge the gap between the mind and the body as language alone often prevents us from listening to our body’s natural responses to stress and well-being.
Anna's sessions highlight the importance of learning tools and strategies to regulate the nervous system in response to stress. This is often a powerful phase of therapy and one we will spend time cultivating and nurturing. Through tapping into the body’s natural healing processes, you will identify which key skills work for you and allow your body to begin working for you rather than against you.
Anna is passionate about helping individuals live a lighter, more authentic and fulfilling life. Over the last 10 years, she has observed how trauma integrates into narratives of identity and self-worth. Anna has witnessed the impact EMDR has on transforming these narratives from pain and suffering to themes of strength and resiliency.
What makes EMDR different from other therapies?
EMDR is known to be different from other therapy models as it does not require talking in detail about the past or about a traumatic event to be effective. EMDR also does not require homework in between sessions. Instead, EMDR uses the brain’s natural and adaptive healing processes to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain.
How is trauma defined?
Trauma can be defined as the experience of a real or perceived life-threatening event, such as a car accident, assault or natural disaster.
Trauma can also be defined and is more commonly experienced through the experience of smaller distressing events that contribute to feeling unsafe, rejected or helpless. A trauma response can result from neglect, racism, micro-aggressions, homophobia, transphobia, comments related to appearance or weight, financial loss, or unexpected loss of a relationship.
I have heard about EMDR but what does EMDR therapy look like?
EMDR therapy starts off much like any other therapeutic approach. You come in and talk about your experience and I listen. You choose as much or as little as you would like to share. We begin to build our therapeutic relationship and we decide if EMDR is right for you.
EMDR therapy highlights the mind body connection. After the assessment phase, we begin building your toolbox of coping mechanisms and supportive resources to improve day to day well-being. Creating this toolbox improves resiliency and self-efficacy in the ability to self-regulate emotional and physiological distress in the moment. Throughout our sessions, we will identify the negative cognition (or the belief about yourself) that connects the experiences that brought you into therapy. This negative cognition allows us to identify memories for re-processing.
Using bilateral stimulation (sets of eye movements), we maintain a safe environment in the present to process past traumatic or adverse life experiences without the activation of the body’s fight, flight or freeze response. This allows the brain’s informational processing system to move towards health and healing targeting past memories, present triggers and future challenges.
How do I know if EMDR is right for me?
When considering whether EMDR is right for you, consider the reasons you are coming to therapy. It may be to process one acute event. More often, the event that brings you to therapy is related to larger themes of self-worth, shame, guilt, safety, control or belonging. These experiences can largely be targeted together through the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) lens of EMDR therapy.
EMDR provides a safe space to heal from painful experiences without having to re-experience the trauma of the event. EMDR works to reduce distress associated with past memories in order to adaptively store these experiences in the mind. You will then be able to acknowledge the past event without experiencing the overwhelming emotional distress previously associated with it.
EMDR can be effective for individuals who feel as though they have not had the success they are looking for with other traditional approaches to therapy or who feel that challenging their current belief system feels insurmountable.
Talking is more limited in EMDR than other more traditional approaches to therapy. The focus on the mind and body works to desensitize the disturbing material to effectively reprocess and adaptively store the past experiences. This approach is valuable for those who may want to resolve distress related to topics that they do not wish to verbally process.
EMDR does require the ability to tolerate difficult emotions and thoughts. The initial phases of EMDR in conjunction with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills and Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM) skills, will engage you in active practice of stabilization skills to tolerate these uncomfortable feelings and assess whether EMDR is right for you.
If you would like to be connected to an EMDR therapist to determine if EMDR is right for you, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I do EMDR virtually?
Simple answer: Yes!
The primary principles of EMDR do not change when done through telehealth. EMDR follows an 8 phase protocol which can easily translate in an online setting. The initial phases of EMDR focus on building rapport, treatment planning and practicing stabilization skills, such as grounding techniques and resource development. These skills can be practiced from the comfort of your own space and can include personal objects to act as additional resources. Learning and practicing these tools from your independent space often empowers clients to engage in effective coping in between sessions.
Before beginning EMDR virtually, you will want to make you have a safe space that allows you to be fully engaged and present during your sessions.
Consider the following:
Is my space private?
Is it free from distractions?
Do I have good lighting?
Am I able to turn off notifications and alarms on my device?
Is the internet speed fast enough for a Zoom video session?
Do I have access to a computer or laptop in this space?
Do I have a glass of water, tissues and a soft blanket nearby?
What other personal items that bring me comfort can I have with me?
*Virtual EMDR is not recommended on a phone or I-pad (due to the manner in which re-processing occurs) or if a person is unable to identify a space free from interruptions.
Many clients who live with others have found it helpful to be in a room where there is a door to ensure privacy. Consider communicating to others when to expect your “Do Not Disturb” hour. Additional tools include a sign or a white noise machine outside the door. Other clients have found it helpful to have headphones to reduce likelihood of unexpected noise distractions.
The last few years have taught us that there are many advantages to being able to access therapy online. However, the choice of virtual versus in-person therapy comes down to an individual preference. If you have questions about whether participating in EMDR virtually is right for you, consult with a clinician about your situation and they can assist you in identifying the experience that best fits your needs.