The “Magic” of EMDR


Some of the questions I’m most commonly asked about my counseling practice are related to EMDR:  “What does it stand for?”  “What is it used for?”  “Is it like hypnosis?”  “Is it evidence-based?”  “Can it help me?” 

The name is a mouthful ⎯ and may even sound intimidating.  EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it’s a truly amazing intervention that I utilize daily ⎯ and that has dramatically improved my life as both a clinician and as a client.  Many of my clients describe its effects as “magic,” and I agree that its effectiveness feels “magical” to me many times each week.  

Developed in 1995 by Francine Shapiro, PhD, EMDR is an evidence-based therapeutic intervention that has significantly and positively impacted the lives of thousands of people all over the world.  

It’s not at all like hypnosis, particularly in that clients are awake, totally aware, and completely in control.  One ‘theory’ about EMDR is that the bilateral stimulation ⎯ or ‘eye movements’ ⎯ is much like REM sleep, when our eyes rapidly dart back and forth during deep sleep cycles.  This may explain why we can go to bed with a problem on our minds, sleep well, and awake with different awareness or even new thoughts or feelings related to the issue.  With EMDR, the client is able to focus on a specific issue or trauma and achieve a similar effect during therapy sessions.   

EMDR is used to help individuals who have experienced “Big T” traumas like war, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other events that everyone would likely deem traumatic.  EMDR is also used to help clients who have experienced “little t” traumas like being told they are stupid or unworthy as a child, experiencing discrimination or bullying, or living through events that many would consider traumatic, while others may not.  

One of my favorite ⎯ and most fundamental ⎯ aspects of using EMDR is that there is NO judgment of what is or is not traumatic.  If something is traumatic to a person, then it IS traumatic and can benefit from EMDR, especially because of the always-present link between trauma and a negative self-belief. 

Often, our brains even know on an intellectual level that these negative beliefs about ourselves aren’t true ⎯ and, yet, we continue to operate out of these irrational beliefs.  EMDR essentially helps to ‘re-wire’ our brains and to replace these irrational, negative beliefs with more rational, positive beliefs ⎯ beliefs that are nearly always true and that invariably serve us better.

Not surprisingly, some of my clients who are therapists themselves have benefitted so much from our EMDR work that they have invested the time, energy, and money to become trained, too.  Having experienced its life-altering, positive effects, they want to help their own clients benefit from its “magic.”
I’m grateful for EMDR ⎯ and look forward to helping many, many more clients work toward wholeness, health, peace, and overall well-being.

The Adventure Begins…

Being a ‘careful’ and intentional person, leaving a job I still loved after nearly 2 decades for an “unknown” was both frightening and exhilarating!  I’m filled with such gratitude that this “adventure” has been absolutely amazing so far!  

How lucky to have landed in a beautiful space downtown with two vastly skilled, wise, and experienced clinician ‘office mates’ who have quickly become dear friends and beloved colleagues.  (It doesn’t hurt, either, that one brings an enthusiastic, four-legged, furry therapy dog to work every day!  Or that we are graced with a lovely and sweet community kitty!)
The many clients that have found their way to me so far have proven to be incredibly insightful, hard-working, and committed to their own healing, recovery, and growth.

And, yet, what would an adventure really be without a few ‘glitches’ along the way?  Electronic health records...there are so many from which to choose! Insurance filing...while it’s gone smoothly overall, some still puzzle me!  Tax IDs...!  PLLC…!  Forms and more forms…!  I’ve completed and submitted more paperwork than I ever knew existed until now ⎯ no doubt there is more in my future!

As is so often the case with ‘adventures,’ too, many lovely, kind, and encouraging people have assisted me along the way!  Much like a gracious person who stops to change a flat tire alongside a busy road or direct a lost traveler back to the intended route, they have supported me and have helped me to ‘stay the course,’ assuring me that this is indeed the ‘adventure’ that I was ready for and the ‘adventure’ that was ready for me!

Helping clients navigate new adventures in their own lives ⎯ many of which are deeply painful, traumatic, and challenging paths not of their own making or journeys that they arrived at only after immense and often-uncomfortable self-reflection ⎯ nourishes me and continues to teach me every day.  I remain inspired and awed by their courage, spirit, and resilience.  

Let the adventure continue...

And Suddenly You Just Know It’s Time…

And suddenly you just know it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.

As I contemplated what to write for my first ‘official’ blog post, this quote immediately came to mind, as it has guided me through this last year of enormous, exciting, frightening, and fabulous change.

Having been at an agency I love for close to two decades, I am often asked what prompted me to change career paths and to embark upon the course of building my own Private Counseling Practice.  The short answer is, “It was just time…” The longer, and more accurate, response is, “I’m not really was a convergence of many personal insights and my own counseling journey; the recognition that time here is limited for all of us and therefore it’s our own sometimes-frightening responsibility and often-beautiful opportunity to create and follow our dreams; the inspiring courage and resilience I witness each day in my clients; and so much more.”

When I initially felt this dream stirring within me in a real way about a year ago, I thought that I’d see a few clients outside of my agency work at hospice.

So, for many months, I reached out to private practice clinicians ⎯ all of whom were exceedingly generous with their time and wisdom ⎯ and learned more about their experiences. Without fail, each encouraged me to take the leap into private practice, believing in me in ways that will always feel touching and humbling.

To say that it’s involved tremendous hard work and determination is a bold understatement!  While it’s seemed, at times, that the Universe was conspiring against this dream, many, many, MANY MORE people have exhibited such kindness, talent, support, and warmth toward me...and I remain eternally grateful.

Once the reality of the very long hours I already worked settled in, I knew it was time to make a choice... I needed to either abandon this dream or jump in!  Change is rarely easy ⎯ and particularly when it meant, for me, choosing between an agency I continue to adore and believe in ⎯ but I know it was the right time, the right move, and the right path for me.

Every day is such a gift, and I look forward to helping my clients discern their own paths in life.