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EMDR: What Is It?

So often in today's world, we are running a hundred miles an hour. We do not take care of ourselves the way we should. We eat badly, or put off going to the gym, or neglect our mental health. I was guilty of all of this until recently, when I finally found myself a therapist.

If therapy has taught me anything it's that I have a lot of work to do on myself and that's ok. But admitting that is only the first step of many. I have a long way to go to process some of the trauma I've been through, with sexual abuse and with grief, and therapy has been a huge part in helping me through some of this.

When I was looking up different therapists, I stumbled onto someone who specialized in EMDR. I had never heard of it before. EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a relatively new treatment to treat PTSD (as well as other mental illnesses). So, I interviewed someone who specialized in it.

Today, I spoke to a counselor named Natalie Higgins. Natalie went to Coastal Carolina University for her BA and Webster University for her MA. She has been in the health field since 2010. Natalie has specialized in EMDR for two years. It is a psychotherapy treatment used to treat PTSD and psychological stress by reliving trauma while the therapist directs your eye movements. Though more research must be done, EMDR is also being used to treat depression, anxiety, eating disorders and panic attacks. I asked Natalie more about herself and about this treatment.

How did you become a counselor?

Honestly, it just happened. I took a Psych 101 class as an elective in college and immediately changed my major. Things in my life kept leading me to it, even why I tried to avoid it.

Would you say being a counselor is rewarding?


What are some treatments you use in therapy?

EMDR, IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy), CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) & DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).

Now for the meat of it. What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.

How did you hear about EMDR? From colleagues who had received training.

Who is EMDR most helpful for? It’s most helpful to people who have experienced trauma.

How does it work?

This is a loaded question. From the EMDR Institute: “EMDR enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences” and this is done by utilizing bilateral stimulation. Here is the link to the EMDR Institute. They have a good section on EMDR Info :)

Is there anyone who shouldn’t use EMDR? People who are highly dissociative.

What are some side effects of EMDR Feeling exhausted after a session, residual processing, and vivid dreams.

Do you have any personal success stories with EMDR? Of course, but what happens in sessions is confidential :) I’ve seen people stop having nightmares/flashbacks after just one session. I myself have experienced the healing EMDR can provide after trauma. It helped me get out of my own way and move forward with my own healing.

EMDR treatment is divided into stages: history and treatment planning; preparation; assessment; treatment; and evaluation. How is it done? Well, after the patient is deemed ready for the actual treatment part of the process, the work begins. When you do EMDR, you focus on a specific trauma while the therapist controls your eye movement. This might include other bilateral movement such as tapping your fingers. It is a technique devised to help your brain release the “fight or flight syndrome” and resume its natural healing. There is no need to talk in depth about the trauma or do homework with your therapist afterward. It is all done in the session.

From a patient that has tried EMDR: "It's a wild ride honestly... It's like a flooding of memories and sensations all at the same time. After a memory is complete I feel stronger and more resilient." After researching this and speaking to Natalie, I, too, would like to try EMDR. When I finally do so,

I will write another blog with my experience, so stay tuned!

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