New therapy direction

This year marks the beginning of my third year of consistent therapy. Therapy normally consists of me crying out all the things that stress me from my past, to current events, to family, and work. I can start a certain series of events and jump to a totally different avenue two weeks later. This is how my brain works. I don’t have control over my memory recall or my current stresses of the day. It works the same way with reading. I can compile a list of to be read for a month and bumped books off for others because I read a review for something I need to read ASAP.

Alas I am about to be married and hopefully start a family of my own and I would really love to work on my PTSD this year. I am going to try my damnedest to stick to it and stop circling all over the place.

My therapist brought up this new treatment she trained up on last year called EMDR. We have discussed doing this treatment several times but like typical me I circled to other topics during our sessions instead of focusing on one thing at a time.

What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences….

EMDR therapy uses a three pronged protocol: (1) the past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction are processed, forging new associative links with adaptive information; (2) the current circumstances that elicit distress are targeted, and internal and external triggers are desensitized; (3) imaginal templates of future events are incorporated, to assist the client in acquiring the skills needed for adaptive functioning.

There is eight phases to this type of therapy. I will copy the information I found from the EMDR website (linked above). It details how you move through the phases.

Phase 1:  The first phase is a history-taking session(s).  The therapist assesses the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan.  Client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing.  These include distressing memories and current situations that cause emotional distress.  Other targets may include related incidents in the past.  Emphasis is placed on the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations.

Initial EMDR processing may be directed to childhood events rather than to adult onset stressors or the identified critical incident if the client had a problematic childhood.  Clients generally gain insight on their situations, the emotional distress resolves and they start to change their behaviors.  The length of treatment depends upon the number of traumas and the age of PTSD onset.  Generally, those with single event adult onset trauma can be successfully treated in under 5 hours.  Multiple trauma victims may require a longer treatment time.

Phase 2:  During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress.  The therapist may teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques the client can use during and between sessions. A goal of EMDR therapy is to produce rapid and effective change while the client maintains equilibrium during and between sessions.

Phases 3-6:  In phases three to six, a target is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures.  These involve the client identifying three things:
1.  The vivid visual image related to the memory
2.  A negative belief about self
3.  Related emotions and body sensations.

In addition, the client identifies a positive belief.  The therapist helps the client rate the positive belief as well as the intensity of the negative emotions.  After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously engaging in EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation.  These sets may include eye movements, taps, or tones.  The type and length of these sets is different for each client.  At this point, the EMDR client is instructed to just notice whatever spontaneously happens.

After each set of stimulation, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind.  Depending upon the client’s report, the clinician will choose the next focus of attention.  These repeated sets with directed focused attention occur numerous times throughout the session.  If the client becomes distressed or has difficulty in progressing, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client get back on track.

When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, (s)he is asked to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session.  At this time, the client may adjust the positive belief if necessary, and then focus on it during the next set of distressing events.

Phase 7:  In phase seven, closure, the therapist asks the client to keep a log during the week.  The log should document any related material that may arise.  It serves to remind the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.

Phase 8:  The next session begins with phase eight.  Phase eight consists of examining the progress made thus far.  The EMDR treatment processes all related historical events, current incidents that elicit distress, and future events that will require different responses

I am just wondering if this is a viable direction to go in.

My thoughts and concerns

  1. My therapist thinks this would be a great way to tackle my PTSD. Instead of eye movement she uses a thermatapper. It is this machine that buzzes in your hands. She let me hold them and try it out. She buzzed me a few times to show it doesn’t hurt. I will say that after a few buzzes I felt my heart rate jump and my anxiety climb a bit.
  2. What if I cannot place things in my safe box, or give it over to my protectors?
  3. I am purposely dreading up trauma. My sessions are only 45 minutes. I don’t want to carry bad feelings with me the rest of the day.
  4. My memories are disjointed. I remember the worst of what happened during the trauma but the minor details are sometimes blurry. My therapists says that what we block out is the part that can help us heal. It is either the worst of what happened or the realization that what unfolding wasn’t your fault and you can stop blaming yourself. I fear I will fail at this.
  5. Basically fear of failing… or is it a fear of success. Am I afraid to be completely healed and no longer need a therapist who I have found comforting to rely on for three years?

Thoughts and advice welcomed!


4 thoughts on “New therapy direction

  1. Stephanie,

    As a probation officer, I work with many people who have mental health issues. PTSD and anxiety are two of the most common. Last year, I had an Army vet on my caseload who suffered with PTSD and anxiety. He tried several different therapy/medicinal treatment options before his therapist recommended EMDR. After several months of that type of therapy, he reported greaet results and was even able to come off a couple of his meds and go for longer periods without having to meet with his therapist. I hope you have similar or better results. Good luck!

    Take care, be well, and happy blogging!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure if I can offer too much advice, other than to do what makes you happy. Or what gets you to happy. Its a good thing for your therapist to offer these suggestions to you to help you through the things you are struggling with. If the buzzers cause too much stress is there maybe something else you can do that will have the same end result without the anxiety?

    I’m definitely in a “try whatever you can to help yourself” camp but I’ve never had to recover from anything even close to the past trauma you have had to. You are such a strong woman, Stephanie! 💛💛


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