EMDR Therapist Cristy.Bollingberg

EMDR Network Therapist

Cristy
Bollingberg
LCSW, CCTP
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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) FAQs

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is a therapeutic process utilizing eye movements, sound or pulsations to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain. (This process is called “bi-lateral” stimulation.) Focusing on a distressful (or
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positive) experience along with bi-lateral stimulation, brings about changes in the brain that, when completed, brings a person more into a state of balance.

The experience of EMDR is uniquely individual: It can be very intense or relatively mild. Some clients have described the process as putting together fragments of thought and memory into a cohesive whole.

One of the most intriguing things about EMDR therapy is that it can be used to reduce distress as well as increase a sense of well-being. That is why the same technique can be used both for PTSD symptoms brought on by a horrifying traumatic event and also for performance enhancement in the workplace.

Although a single distressing incident may resolve in a few sessions with EMDR, if your symptoms are a product of many traumas or an extended period of intense stress such as an abusive childhood, extensive preparation may be necessary. Your emotional safety is essential to this process and EMDR works best in a trusting and collaborative therapeutic relationship.

Does It Work?

Many people have experienced outstanding results with this research-based therapeutic process, originated and developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. Researchers have been studying the effects of EMDR on the brain to explain its success, and although there are many theories to explain its effectiveness, we
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don’t really know how it works. However, even without a full explanation, there is plenty of research to show that it is very effective.

Whether your goal is to repair the damage of trauma, develop relationship skills, or enhance work or personal performance, brain changes have to occur. EMDR therapy combines the best of everything we know about change, along with quality connection with a compassionate, non-judgmental therapist.

What Is an EMDR Session Like?

With an EMDR clinician, after an initial evaluation and discussion of treatment options, you will be prepared for an EMDR session by developing and strengthening your sense of inner safety and emotional resilience. (This is referred to as “resource
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development”.) EMDR is not hypnosis: during an EMDR session you are fully conscious and may stop at any time.

When you are fully prepared for EMDR (including a complete psychosocial history) you and your therapist will “set up” a session in which you target a disturbing situation. You will identify and explore feelings, thoughts, body signs, intensity level, and any visual aspects of the experience. Your therapist will use hand motions to stimulate eye movements and begin the “processing.” (Please note: your therapist may use light taps on your knees or hands or special equipment such as a light bar, or a tactile or auditory stimulus, depending on your comfort level.)

This experience of bringing about changes in the brain, is different for each individual and it can be very mild or very intense. In a completed EMDR experience (which will likely take multiple sessions) disturbing feelings and thoughts decrease in intensity, while a comforting or empowering belief about the situation is strengthened.

Here is a more technical description of the 8 Phases of the EMDR Protocol.

What Does the Research Say?

EMDR therapy is the single most researched psychotherapeutic treatment for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder / Syndrome) and is an accepted treatment for PTSD by the American Psychological Association (APA), Veterans Administration
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(VA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and other national and international organizations such as The International Society for Traumatic Stress (ISTS), and professional organizations such as the EMDR Institute and the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA.)

Links to Research

Right now, worldwide, there are international teams of health care providers training therapists, counselors and other health workers in trauma counseling and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment. Courageous therapists and counselors work to give aid to victims of torture, war, and natural disaster, and EMDR(HAP), the humanitarian organization for EMDR, routinely sends teams of therapists to train others in EMDR.

Is EMDR Treatment Effective?

Here’s What the Research Says:

Effectiveness Is Impressive

As you know, no treatment is ever 100% effective, but the ever-growing body of research on the effectiveness of EMDR is
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impressive: here is a brief summary of EMDR research. You can also read what our EMDR Therapists have to say about their experiences with this exciting therapy.

What the research shows about:

Traumatic memories and related symptoms of depression, anger, anxiety, and relationship problems:

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment has been shown to be effective in reducing or relieving the distress of traumatic memories. When traumatic experiences are part of a client’s history, and precede the development of other disorders, the use of EMDR therapy may be effective in reducing or relieving the distress of other symptoms and conditions including:

  • depression
  • anger
  • social phobia or social anxiety disorders
  • performance anxiety
  • relationship and marital problems
  • existential angst
  • and much more complex problems such as: body dysmorphic disorder; body image disturbance; dissociative disorders; attachment disorder; and personality disorders. Bipolar Disorder, Panic Disorders

Can EMDR help Bipolar Disorder, Panic Disorders, Agorophobia, Phobias, Pain Control?

In some situations, EMDR therapy may also be part of a treatment plan for bipolar disorder, panic disorders, agoraphobia, some specific phobias, and helpful as part of an effective stress relief and anger management program, and there is hope that EMDR may be helpful in pain control.

How Is EMDR Different (from Other Eye Movement Therapies)?

Eye movements occur naturally in the course of a day or at night during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, but when they are utilized to stimulate the processing of traumatic material, unexpected responses may occur. That is why an EMDR
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therapist is so careful in utilizing eye movements and a clinician needs to be a licensed health care provider (or on a licensure track) to be trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.

Those individuals who offer eye movements for personal growth but are not trained in EMDR may stimulate responses they are not prepared to handle. They will likely ask you to sign a disclaimer that you should consult a qualified and licensed medical or psychological professional if you are suffering from a medical or psychological condition of any kind. If you have a trauma history, especially if you have had any suicide attempts, you may want to consider carefully the training of anyone offering to “process” your trauma with eye movements.

EMDR Administrated by Trained Clinicians

Although you may be told the use of eye movements to decrease the effects of trauma is very simple, it is actually a very powerful technique. The EMDR protocol should be administered only by a trained clinician in a safe environment. This is especially true if
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you have a traumatic history where preparation for the EMDR experience is crucial.

An EMDR clinician will either be licensed in the state in which they are practicing, or under supervision for licensure. Therapists listed on this website also have completed the training for EMDR and have reached a level of skill, confidence and success with EMDR to be advertising their skills to the public.

Note: If you are a health professional licensed in your state (or on a licensure track), you are encouraged to get training in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing through the EMDR Institute and other EMDRIA Approved Training.

How Is EMDR Used for Coaching & Peak Performance?

The basic EMDR protocol includes a “future template” which focuses the client on reacting in a new and positive manner in the future when faced with a challenge. EMDR can be used effectively to increase self-confidence, positive feelings and
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behaviors, and to meet goals. It can be used to enhance performance and strengthen one’s inner resources, creativity and core resilience.

  • Peak Performance (Performance Enhancement)
  • Peak performance (often referred to as “performance enhancement”) takes EMDR’s power to another level by “installing” new programming in the mind, strengthening the physiological sensations and visualization of the new endeavor.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to imagine a positive future when negativity has dominated one’s thinking, emotions and behaviors. The promise of EMDR is that the devastating effects of negative feelings, thoughts and behaviors can be transformed into positive programming and more vibrant health and well-being.

EMDR in the news 10 reasons to try EMDR Is EMDR for me?

We would like you to note that research results don't yet support all the ways that individual therapists use EMDR in their practice. Please ask your therapist to tell you about their training and successes with clients.

Read more about the current research and the efficacy of EMDR here.