Terri K. Lankford, LPCS
It’s Not All Rose Colored Glasses: Moving through the Muck & Facing your Fears with EMDR
In our previous posts you’ve learned what EMDR therapy is, what the sessions may look like, what dual awareness stimulation or bilateral stimulation is, and who this may help, which covers a BROAD range of issues that you or others you may know might be experiencing. While the lens this may be presenting with may seem “rose colored”, let’s discuss a bit about some of the uncomfortable pieces one might experience and how we work to wade through that “muck” you might feel.
During therapy in general, a therapist is likely to be challenging how things seem to be working out for you right now. This ma include questioning the way we think, digging into why we do the things we do, and working through negative experiences. That is often UNCOMFORTABLE! Yeesh, who wants to do that? It’s super easy to shift into what is often a lot of our defaults, which is avoidance.
I’m here to be straight with you: going through EMDR therapy is often a different experience for every individual. Some clients move through seamlessly and others are ready to throw in the towel with their tears in the first 5 minutes of bilateral stimulation, or even as we identify what to work on. You may (or may not) experience intense physical or emotional triggers during a bilateral stimulation session. You may bring up uncomfortable memories you didn’t have at the forefront of your brain. You may notice a smell that isn’t actually in the room or any of your other five senses being activated, and you might also feel physical sensations like tingling or sweating. Powerful emotions may catch you off guard. We often fear the discomfort. This is why feeling secure with your therapist, confronting trauma, and uncovering distressing memories is hard work. At the same time, this hard work is SOOO worth it as you move through this quickly and come out of it on the other side with a new perspective and an adaptive, positive way to address the issues you’ve been experiencing.
Things to be aware of:
There are not usually any problematic “side effects” since EMDR is not medication.
However, between sessions, memories and feelings may come up outside of the therapy session since your brain keeps doing the processing work for you. Some clients may feel heightened emotions or sensations, lightheadedness, vivid dreams, and more distressing memories.
A well trained therapist will have already been doing great resourcing and coping skill building work prior to your bilateral stimulation sessions to increase your window of tolerance and improve your ability to handle fluctuation in emotions, triggers, and experiences you may have. In the rare instance that you feel you can’t handle these presenting experiences between sessions, you would be encouraged to use your natural supports and reach out to your therapist if needed.
The biggest effect of a bilateral stimulation session with EMDR is commonly reported as being incredibly tired. I often explain to my clients that your brain is doing A LOT of work during these sessions. You’re really giving your brain it’s own mental workout - and just like going to the gym or going for a run, your muscles get tired and need some recovery time. What's important to remember is that your body stored the physical aspect of the memory and we are releasing this physical trauma from your body. People tend to be particularly fatigued after these sessions because of the strong physical and emotional trauma that was released - and your body needs time to heal. Often planning things like not having to go back to work after a session and some restorative self-care is encouraged after your sessions.
OK, so we’re reviewed some information that you would want to consider before diving into EMDR Therapy and it seems like EMDR can be used for EVERYONE, right?! Those rose colored glasses..... But who shouldn’t do EMDR? Stay tuned for information in our upcoming post!