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What I Want You to Know Before You Start EMDR


Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I was sexually assaulted a little over two years ago and was in an emotionally abusive relationship right before it happened. I’ve lost a lot of control over my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and body. I never understood what was happening until my therapist was concerned. I still live in a cloud of denial that what happened to me wasn’t my fault.

I started partial hospitalization about a month ago and was recommended eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy while I was in intensive care and could be monitored. This treatment is basically reprocessing trauma, and re-experiencing it, while a therapist feeds you suggestions to better cope with it and undo the damage it has caused you… at least in my case. My sessions are usually one minute of back and forth tapping (there are different forms, make sure you ask your therapist to make sure what you’re using works best for you). After one minute of tapping, she asks what is coming up, and usually follows it with a rhetorical suggestion or question to guide my thoughts. Once the session is done, she grounds me back to a “happy place,” to close off the door.

When I was offered this, I was terrified because no one had really given me a firsthand experience of it before. So, if you are considering this form of therapy, I want you to know these things before starting:

1. You may feel emotions before you remember anything.

In my first session, I cried before anything ever came up.

2. Random events may pop up. Trust that your mind will take you where it needs to go to begin to heal.

It won’t always solely be the trauma coming up; the smallest traumas shape us more than we realize.

3. It’s OK to be anxious before a session.

Just please let your therapist know so they can ground you properly or do whatever you need to get the most of your session.

4. Ask questions.

Ask about the process. Ask about your experience. Be raw. Be real. Be honest.

5. It may get worse before it gets better, and that’s OK.

You may experience more PTSD symptoms or new ones, and you may not. It’s your experience and that’s OK! Just make sure you are letting your therapist know of changes or worsening thoughts.

Please remember: EMDR is different for everybody, and every therapist has their own style, but I will tell you — everyone I have spoken to, patient or therapist in this program, says it works. I am willing to try anything to get my life back.

I truly hope this offered some insight into this upcoming treatment option for trauma, and I hope we all can all find the peace we are seeking someday.

Photo by Imani Clovis on Unsplash