I have found EMDR to be the best tool in my tool kit thus far. Here's my experience (feel free to ask questions)
My therapist indicated that people all react differently and that some require a companion to drive them home or require a mild sedative prior due to the emotional flooding that can occur.
I expected the worst obviously as a result. My therapist did rapid eye movement with two fingers (I've heard paddles can be used, or tapping, etc). The first session because of my fear the worst and the fact I thought it was pretty hokey, nothing happened. 2nd session the same. Third session I was able to call up emotions. While I went in with another trauma I wanted to focus on, pandora's box opened and my sexual trauma ended up coming out along with some other FOOs.
While I got the swing of the experience mentally in session three, I walked out fine. However, three days later, I emotionally lost it. Apparently I"m not one to show emotion in public, so my mind waited until I had time to process a few things. I won't sugar coat it and say there were three times post session that I emotionally flooded and didn't know if I would be able to pick myself back up in any human aspect. 90% of the time, I either just mentally process or may shed some tears but none too major. For me, the experience is essentially turning the trauma's into nothing more than a memory, it strips the emotion out of it for me. Literally I can think back now to things that would bring me to my knees emotionally before and view it as I do recalling a High School math class. Oh, I did it, that's nice and move on with my day.
My biggest challenge in EMDR is the emotional drain I have once I've processed what ever I focused on. I'm tired both physically and mentally and I've been at EMDR on/off for 2 years so it's a constant tiredness per se.
I honestly believe if it weren't for EMDR, I wouldn't be where I am. I think of it as counseling on speed. The same results are achieved as with traditional counseling, but only faster.
Even knowing those three times were way rough, I would do it all over again, the benefits for me are that great... Obviously, I didn't need anyone to drive me home or medicate. Crazy Therapist.
Good luck, if it's successful for you (I've heard others say they get nothing out of it), it will make a WORLD of difference.
I found EMDR to be very successful with a well trained therapist. It was like neuropathways opened up, or reopened, to permit reframed thinking about the abuse. I had been stuck in an endless loop that did not promote my recovery. EMDR was not invasive, with no side effects for me. The therapist explained it with the example of a needle being stuck in a groove on a vinyl record. There is one single groove the needle passes over on the vinyl record to play the song that is our lives. The abuse caused the needle to get stuck in a section of the song that just kept playing over and over in my mind, while the rest of my life song was waiting to be played. EMDR, with the guidance of the therapist, was the safe, gentle nudge needed to move the needle beyond whatever had me stuck, so the beauty of my song could go on for the world to hear. I am thankful for the guided, gentle nudge that moved the needle, with unending relief after forty years of being stuck. Playing that single section of my song over and over, with no clarity on how to move on, or put the abuse solely on my perpetrators, distorted my thinking into unending shame, guilt and self loathing. I tried psychotherapy, self-help, retreats, meditation, prayer, journaling, denial, self harm, alcohol, medication, etc. Many of those helped, or allowed me to survive the moment, or wave of despair, but that single section of the song was always playing in the background. Haunting me. Taunting me. Destroying me. Others could not hear it, but I did. I could drown it out with distractions and overachieving, with the illusion no one would ever discover my sadness. My wife’s support and a desire for a better life opened me up to any treatment or intervention that might free me of the darkness that lurked around every corner, threatening to destroy me and my relationship with my sons. I believe we all have a variety of paths to recovery, and it is possible for all of us. Often, it is not a single therapy or approach that moves the needle. It is a combination, or series of interventions that position us for a break through. For the needle to move. Whether the treatment is successful for one, or some, doesn’t matter. If it is successful for you, then it’s worth every dime and effort put into it. As survivors we all know the alternative is brutal and robs the world, or ourselves, to truly hear the beauty of the song that is meant to be played. I encourage all victims and survivors to utilize the tools out there so that they can thrive. The world is waiting to hear our songs. Begging for our songs!! Play them with pride! Dance to them like no one is watching!!! And don’t be afraid to crank up the volume!!! This is YOUR song!!
Heal well! Be gentle on yourselves!
I used EMDR beginning about 25 years ago, shortly after it came on the scene. It is important to note that I remembered nothing about being sexually abuse as a boy when I walked into that therapy office. I had read a number of books on the subject of boys being abused, largely because my fucked up life seemed to point to something traumatic in my past. The first session I felt myself being dragged off the chair by a phantom who was holding my left ankle. It was the first of many fragments of images, body sensations... feeling my head pushed back, gagging. Over the next three years I worked with three different therapists, all of who used EMDR. More and more images came to me. Toward the end of the third year I found myself writhing on the sofa where I sat and re-experiencing in the office being raped when I was around seven years old.
The whole experience was intense and exhausting as Brennan notes. Sadly, because the abuse with my mother happened when I was so young I carried no memories that could be accessed through EMDR. It took me many more years before I was prepared to deal with that... which I'm doing now not with EMDR but with somatic therapy. I know you've done a great deal of healing work. You have many tools for dealing with this material. My guess is you'll find EMDR is very useful given how much you already know about events in the past. I wish you well with this work Jaxson.
Hi @Jaxson, I advocate EMDR for the chance to process the strong emotions that happen to us, or don't. It could unlock them, and there-in lay additional work on those. I have had my emotions tied into me for decades, and have had a deep anger, mostly turned inward to self loathing. I had to find what point in my parts to work on which would allow my brain to process the point that I chose. That point has been what worked for me.
It's hard to describe, so, what it was for me is what I can share. The most impact seemed to be where I was alone, unattached to my caregivers (mother mostly), and that I had learned that detachment had given rise to ignoring my needs. There is where my self loathing grew and what point I wanted to seek in EMDR. My T asked me to focus on that point in my life, so that would be 6, and to feel the emotions that point in my life brought up. Then she would start with 2 fingers. It was about 10 or so seconds, and then she asked "how do you feel?", and I might say, not much yet. She will start again, and same as last, "how do you feel now?" It was usually the 2nd, and my tension was very strong, I get a jumpy leg/knee when I'm that tense. By the 3rd, I might be crying, and not just any, but an outpouring I usually don't have. Very intense, but, I can't describe the emotion, they're pretty mixed. The body tension, is the stored memory of decades, and as the brain is now working to connect with the Processing part, out from the Survival mode part, there will be body reaction.
I think that's what gets a lot of dislike, is that the intensity of emotional experience, and that it's somewhat undefined, just wave after wave, of depth, is that it's unsettling. That's the processing part working to make connections out of our inner brain. This is what's supposed to happen, is that we grow new connections that were missed while we suffered, and were not allowed to have a normal processing like non-trauma people have. This is worth fighting for, and going for broke into that unknown. It's going to be tough, it's not a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination. It's another uncharted part of who we are, but haven't been able understand and work with. We deserved to have our brains be able to process like non ptsd brains. That's not what we have, so that work is what's going to get the job done.
I hope you'll see all this, and find at what point works for you to process. It's not always what we think. I had expected my T would work directly on the direct cause, the horrid night, and what I buried. That was a bit later, after I had opened up my brain toward processing. It was safer then, and I got into some deep rage when I finally got to that. Each of the horrid things isn't exactly what I think EMDR is about. It's more to create the paths to the processing part of our brain that we've never had. When we accomplish some of that new processing, it grows pretty fast. I think I had about 8 EMDR sessions. I had a pretty good reaction the last one, but the 7 prior were a lot of work. I had them back to back weeks, unless my T had training or whatever. I think it's important to try and go through so the brain can settle in with it's newly found processing pathways.
I also was given some lessons by my T, that described dissociation's role in keeping me away from processing. We're stuck in a loop/rut is right. We're going to have a very hard time gaining this new processing without EMDR or a neurotherapy of some kind. I like what EMDR did for me. There are other ways.