EMDR: Frequently Asked Questions

EMDR: Frequently Asked Questions

by Joshua Nave LLMSW

In today’s blog, I’ll be taking some time to answer some questions that are frequently asked of me concerning EMDR therapy and processing sessions.  First, let’s start with the three most asked questions I have from clients when utilizing EMDR:

Is it normal to feel like I’m doing it wrong, why isn’t this session going like the last, and can EMDR make things worse? I’ll be answering these questions in the order written, so if one stands out to you, feel free to scan ahead to the appropriate paragraph.

Is it normal to feel like I’m doing this wrong?

Firstly let’s look at my most asked question: Is it normal to feel like I’m doing this wrong?  The short answer to this question is: YES!  EMDR is a therapy technique that is different and unique from almost every normal action we take throughout our day.  As discussed in some of my other blogs, EMDR seeks to access the part of our brains that is active during the REM (Rapid-Eye-Movement) cycle of our sleep in order to begin processing.  This part of our brain is something abnormal for most of us to be active during the day, and so it can feel weird during your first few sessions of EMDR.  The important thing to remember is that EMDR utilizes the concept of free association: there is no right or wrong answer during processing.  Your EMDR therapist will have been trained to guide you in the right direction, so just relax!

Why isn’t this session going like the last?

Question two comes up quite a few times in my office, especially after a client has had a particularly impactful session the time before. Touching on what we mentioned in the previous session, EMDR works on the process of free-association to allow the brain to move to whatever connections it needs to in order to process. If you’ve ever seen an image of what neurons (the cell in your body responsible for information transfer) looks like, you’ll notice that they often have many branches that criss-cross in their connection to one another. Put short, your information storage is a messy place, with information connected together that we often wouldn’t associate with each other.  Ever session of EMDR will thus look different, one session may be extremely stressful, one positive, one focused on your past and another on your possible future, but all that matters is that your brain is allowed to process!  Again, your therapist will be trained in monitoring whether or not progress is being made, and will ensure that your processing keeps moving in the right direction, so feel free to just notice however each session looks.

Can EMDR make things worse for me?

Finally, the last question that every one of my clients has asked me at some point or another is this: can EMDR make things worse for me? Let me start by answering this question with a metaphor; EMDR works similar to the process of removing a splinter. When a splinter gets stuck in you, you’ll have to utilize tweezers to pull it out, and in a similar light, if your skin has healed over that splinter, it might be necessary to make a small incision in order to remove that splinter.  EMDR works on the principle that there are things from your past, present, and worries about your future that are holding you back from achieving your goals, and those things need be removed like the splinters before true healing can occur.  As I tell my clients, EMDR can make things more painful following a session, especially if you are working on a new painful splinter.  What’s important to remember is that this is all part of the healing process; even if things get worse for a moment that moment will not last and you will be better than before.  I’ve said it in each of the other paragraphs but I’ll say it again, your therapist has been trained in these things and will have taught you skills before you begin to process in order to manage any new pains that elevate during your first few processings.

Still have questions about EMDR?

That is all for today, I hope this answered some of the questions you may have had about EMDR therapy services.  I’ll be back soon writing a little more on trauma and signs you can look for in order to determine if you have experienced it, as well as providing some helpful resources.  In the meantime, if you’d like more than just reading my blogs, feel free to schedule a 15-minute complimentary phone consultation with me.  I’d be happy to answer any other questions you have about EMDR, trauma, or even therapy in general!

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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