Guest blog by Starr Hall
After the traumatic abuse I experienced stopped, I wished I could stop it from invading my present life. I was on high alert. I felt unable to stop my body from warning me of danger that I was no longer experiencing. There was a part of me that knew I had done everything in my power to progress, and another part of me that was still so afraid. What was going on? I had rebuilt my life. So why was I still fearful of my abuser? I longed to feel safe again, but I didn’t know how to make that happen. Then I heard about EMDR therapy.
When I first heard about EMDR, I wasn’t sure if it was for me. I was willing to put in the work to heal. But it sounded, well, a bit strange. I thought, “So you’re telling me that all a therapist has to do is wave their hand in the air, and that is supposed to help? You’re kidding, right?” Luckily for me, I had a trusted girlfriend that I could go to with my questions. I asked her, “Tell me about EMDR. What’s it like? Is it weird? Does it really help?” She answered all of my questions because she had been there, and now I hope I can answer some of yours.
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It has become a best practice in the clinical community to treat trauma. During an EMDR session, bilateral stimulation is used, usually involving the client’s eyes. The therapist holds their hand up and moves it back and forth horizontally while the client follows with their eyes. Researchers believe these eye movements imitate the body’s rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In order to practice EMDR, the therapist must be trained to follow a step-by-step process that includes bilateral stimulation and a script.
What’s it like?
Here’s what happens at a typical EMDR session: First, a calming, safe place is established by practicing techniques like deep breathing, guided relaxation, etc. My calming place is the ocean. I imagine myself sitting on the beach with a vast view of the ocean, my toes in the sand, the sun on my face, breathing in the fresh salty air, listening to the waves as they crash. The therapist guides the client through this. Soon the client can practice these self-care techniques on their own. After establishing a safe place, the client answers the questions the therapist asks, then engages the body in a bilateral stimulation, then answers questions again, then bilateral stimulation, and so on. EMDR allows the client to reprocess traumatic memories. The script guides the session, and the client guides the reprocessing.
Is it weird?
EMDR may sound a bit weird, but it was not as intimidating as I expected. It’s not that different from talk therapy. It felt liberating to work through past traumatic experiences with both my mind and body.
Does it really help?
Yes! A resounding yes. EMDR allowed me to process past traumatic experiences in a new light. I felt completely different than I had before. Before I felt fearful. After I felt free. F R E E. A transformation took place within me. I had my life back. I was astounded at the healing that took place in less time than I could have anticipated. EMDR gave me the gift of separating my past from my present. This not only restored my sense of safety, it also gave me peace. If I could share this gift with every trauma survivor, I would.
You can find true healing and overcome trauma in many ways. EMDR was part of my path to healing. Trust your intuition and find what is right for you. Healing IS possible. Not only have I walked this path, I have seen others walk it, too. Strong, courageous, incredible survivors have shown their ability to find hope and healing time and time again. No matter how insurmountable it may seem, you have the power to overcome trauma and find peace in the present. I invite you to discover your own path to healing. I am cheering you on every step of the way.