Christian Stress Release

Healing Your Trauma (Pt. 3) – Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing, EMDR (2 of 2)

Today I’m continuing our series “Healing Your Trauma”, by talking about EMDR sessions, and how to hire the right EMDR therapist for you. 

Today I’m continuing with our series called “Healing Your Trauma”, finishing our discussion on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This is the second post (of 2) on EMDR, talking about what EMDR sessions look like, what to expect throughout a healing process using EMDR, and how to hire the right EMDR therapist for you.

 

This series is here to help you understand what resources are available to you, to help you heal your trauma. Whether you know if you have trauma or not, any of these resources can help you uncover if you do, and help you heal it. 

 

You can find links for all of the resources talked about in this series here. I encourage you to let God lead your search in finding the right practitioner and help for you. He is the Almighty Counselor, and the only One who truly knows exactly what’s going on inside of you, and which resource(s) are best to help you heal it. I’m praying for you.

 

This is the 3rd post in a series of 10. You can find the whole series here.

How to Heal Your Trauma

Today I’m finishing our discussion on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This is the second post (of 2) on EMDR, talking about what EMDR sessions look like, what to expect throughout a healing process using EMDR, and how to hire the right EMDR therapist for you. 

Eye Movement Desensitization + Reprocessing (EMDR)

As we talked about in the last post, EMDR helps heal your trauma by combining eye movements with a variety of different therapies, while you revisit a traumatic memory. This fusion of external stimuli and therapies helps release the trauma from your memory, and therefore your brain and body.

What EMDR Sessions Look Like

While each session may be different, overall you’ll be guided in focusing on 1 trauma memory at a time. Your therapist will guide you in revisiting the memory in segments, which will allow you to stay safe while releasing the trauma. 

 

This is done through an 8-phase process.

phase 1

Phase 1 begins with an intake of your history, meaning the trauma you’re wanting to heal in the sessions with your therapist. During this session(s), your therapist will talk with you about how EMDR can help you heal, and develop a plan for your sessions together.

 

Phase 1 often takes 1  session, but can take more, if there’s more to talk about than can fit into 1 session.

phase 2

In phase 2, your therapist will teach you a set of techniques (called resourcing, or grounding, techniques), that will help you both during and in between your sessions. These techniques are designed to regulate your nervous system (meaning shift it back into a state of peace and rest). The purpose of this phase is to help ensure that you’re safe while healing your trauma. If at any point during your healing process you feel yourself becoming dysregulated (meaning panicked and triggered), you can use these techniques to regulate yourself again. (Your therapist will help you with this during your sessions as well).

 

Phase 2 typically lasts around 1 session, but can take longer if your brain and body struggle to feel safe and find regulation using these techniques.

phase 3-6

Phases 3 through 6 are where your trauma is healed. These 4 phases include:

 

  • Healing your trauma
  • Re-wiring any limiting beliefs you have about yourself (that wired in during your trauma)
  • Releasing any negative emotions you’re carrying from your trauma.

 

Your therapist will guide you through focusing briefly on your trauma. This will include any images, negative thoughts, negative emotions, bodily sensations and beliefs about yourself that come up when you think about your trauma.

Your therapist will then guide you through the bilateral stimulation (eye movements, hand taps or audio noises) to begin releasing your trauma. You’ll work through multiple rounds of bilateral stimulation until your trauma has released from that 1 segment of the memory. Once the trauma has released from that segment completely, your therapist will guide you through the next segment of your memory (repeating steps 3-6 again). This will continue over multiple sessions until your trauma has released from the memory completely (ie. is healed).

 

In addition to this healing, your therapist will begin Phase 3 by asking you to create an empowering belief about yourself. This is something that you’d like to believe about yourself (like “I survived it and am strong”), but currently don’t, because of your trauma. At the end of Phases 3-6, they’ll have you revisit this belief and notice how true it feels to you. You can modify it at this time if it needs to be modified. 

 

As you heal the entire trauma memory (and possibly additional trauma memories), you’ll revisit this belief and notice how true it feels to you. Often your therapist will have you rate how true it feels on a scale of 0-10, to track the progress of your healing. By the end of your sessions together, you’ll have a new empowering belief about yourself, to carry into your life as a healed woman.

 

Phases 3-6 typically take multiple sessions (possibly many, depending on your trauma and how safe your brain feels in healing it). 

phase 7

Phase 7 is the phase of closure for each session that you have with your therapist. It’s how you close out each sessions to ensure that you’re trauma is tucked safely away (out of your conscious awareness). This ensures that you’re not actively revising the memory and all of the emotions, thoughts, bodily sensations, etc. about it. In this time, your therapist will have you use the resourcing techniques from Phase 2 to bring yourself back into a regulated state (of peace and rest).

 

They may also have you keep a log throughout the week of anything that comes up relating to your trauma. This log will help show you what things in life are triggering your trauma, and remind you to use the resourcing techniques to regulate yourself.

 

Phase 7 will happen at the end of each session during Phases 3-6.

phase 8

Phase 8 is where you check your progress. At the beginning of each session (during Phases 3-6), your therapist will check in with you, to see if anything from the last session is still triggering you. (It’s possible for things to be healing, without being fully healed yet. This check-in gives your therapist a gage on any trauma that may be remaining. Which helps them know where to start this session.)

 

Phase 8 will happen at the beginning of each session during Phases 3-6.

ADDITIONAL MEMORIES

Once you’ve completely healed 1 trauma memory, you have the option to keep working with your therapist through other trauma memories. You’ll begin this 8 phase process all over again to heal each additional trauma memory.

 

Or, if you’re satisfied with your healing, you can choose to close out your sessions with your therapist.

What to Expect Throughout a Healing Process Using EMDR

The healing process with EMDR (like any technique) can be different than what you’d expect. Below are some things that can happen (both positive and negative) throughout this process. These notes are here to let you know what might happen in sessions, not guarantees that you will experience them. Knowing these ahead of time can help you feel less overwhelmed, confused and/or scared if they do happen.

COGNITIVE SHIFTS (POSITIVE)

As you move through your sessions to heal your trauma, you’ll likely notice shifts in your emotions, thoughts and perceptions about your trauma.

 

  • Where you once may have been triggered with intense emotions, panic (maybe panic attacks), and fear of reliving the memory (with images, ie. flashbacks); you now may begin to notice less of all of these things. 
  • Your relationship to the things that triggered your trauma before may get easier, less overwhelming and less scary. 
  • Eventually, you may begin to realize that your trauma is in the past, that you survived it and that you’re stronger now because of it. 
  • Where you once may have felt trapped, like a permanent victim, you may now feel safe and in control of yourself.

 

All of these shifts are signs that your brain and body are healing from your trauma. Scientifically, these are called cognitive shifts. 

 

They’re signs that your brain (and body) are releasing your trauma, and that your brain is re-wiring now. This includes re-wiring belief systems with empowering beliefs about yourself in your life now.

INTENSE EMOTIONS (NEGATIVE)

It’s possible to have some ups and downs throughout this healing process. In sessions with your therapist, you may feel some of the emotions intensely for a short period of time, as your brain works to release your trauma. 

 

With these emotions can come bodily sensations (often associated with the emotions). The bilateral stimulation of EMDR should help release those emotions quickly. If they don’t subside quickly, your therapist will use additional techniques to help you through and out of those emotions quickly. 

 

You’ll also have the resourcing techniques you learned in Phase 2 to help you as well.

MEMORIES SURFACING (NEGATIVE)

It’s also possible to experience other trauma memories surfacing once you start to heal your known trauma memories.

 

When your brain begins to get the help it needs to heal, it can begin to feel safe enough to surface old memories that have been locked away for safe keeping. We call this dissociation. As these memories surface, you may begin to feel intense emotions, thoughts, reactions or even images (flashbacks) of the memories. 

 

If this happens, you can use the resourcing techniques you learned in Phase 2 to help regulate your brain and nervous system (bring it back into the state rest and digest, or peace). 

 

You’ll also want to notify your therapist, so they can help you safely tuck those memories away until you’re ready to heal them. Healing works by working through 1 trauma memory at a time. Your therapist will help you tuck away (re-dissociated) the memories until you have the space in sessions to heal them.

How to Hire the Right EMDR Therapist for You

There are a few key things to keep in mind as you look for an EMDR therapist.

EMDR CERTIFICATION

Make sure they’re certified in EMDR. 

 

EMDR certification is only available to therapists (licensed, seeking licensure and graduate students). If you see a trauma coach specializing in EMDR, it’s likely they don’t have a certification, and may not have the proper training.

 

There are multiple organizations training and certifying therapists in EMDR. Two of the main ones include EMDRIA and EMDR Institute.

QUALIFICATIONS

Make sure they’re trained and qualified in your type of trauma. 

 

All EMDR therapists will be trained in trauma. However, not all will be trained in your specific type of trauma (like sexual trauma, complex trauma or PTSD). The trauma from child abuse, war, domestic violence, community violence, etc. requires a greater skillset to keep you safe while effectively helping you heal. 

 

It may take some searching to find someone trained in these types of trauma, but it’s worth it to ensure that you’re safe and healing effectively. 

 

EMDRIA allows you to filter therapists by specialty, which can help in this search.

NUMBER OF CLIENTS

It’s helpful to know how many people the therapist has helped heal with your specific type of trauma. 

 

While someone may be knowledgeable in how to heal complex PTSD, they won’t be skilled at it in beginning. It takes time to perfect a craft, and you want to make sure you’re not their first client with your type of trauma.

 

If your therapist isn’t skilled yet (with your specific level and type of trauma), it’s possible that mistakes could lead to re-traumatization. This is when your brain relives the trauma, believes it’s happening again and wounds with more trauma.

 

Checking to make sure they’ve worked with many clients with your type of trauma (successfully), can help ensure that you’re safe in sessions and can heal effectively.

CHRISTIAN PRACTITIONER

I always encourage working with a Christian therapist. 

 

EMDR can heal you trauma regardless, but having a Christian therapist brings God into your healing. It makes a difference when you both believe that God exists, His name is Jesus, He’s the ultimate healer, and that the Holy Spirit is present.

 

Many EMDR therapists may work with Christians, but not be Christian themselves. It’s important to clarify that they are personally a Christian. 

 

Neither of the 2 directories listed above have filters for religion. You can do an independent search for “Christian EMDR therapist” and add your location. You can also find local EMDR therapists and inquire of their faith background.

Additional Techniques to Heal Your Trauma

In the next post, we’ll continue our discussion on 4 of the main mental health techniques that can heal your trauma, by beginning to look at Somatic Experiencing (SE).

Are You Ready to Start Healing Your Trauma?

If you’re ready to start healing your trauma, you can find practitioner directories for both trauma-informed therapists and trauma coaches here.

Do You Have Trauma and Need Help with Your Triggers?

If you’re struggling with trauma triggers and life-altering effects they bring, I have resources for you.

 

While I always encourage healing in 1-on-1 sessions with a therapist or trauma coach, you’re also going to need help in between those sessions.

 

Here is a free video of one of my favorite mental health techniques for turning off trauma triggers. It’s a quick 5 minute exercise that will shift you back into the state of peace in your mind and body.

 

I also have a full Membership of videos and audios (just like the free one) to help you turn off your triggers anytime, anywhere. Some are short exercises to turn off your triggers quickly so you can get back to your life, while others are longer opportunities to turn off your triggers and release the hard emotions that came with them.

 

You deserve to live and thrive in the state of peace in your mind and body. And God wants that for you.

 

If you’re struggling with trauma and the damaging effects of it, know that it’s not only ok to get help. It’s beautiful.

 

From one survivor of this hard life to another,

I’m praying for you ♥︎

   – L aura

Want Laura On Your Blog?

Hey Beautiful Lady,

I just moved across the country and am unable to give the weekly podcast, blog and newsletter emails the attention they need and deserve. I’m postponing them until Tuesday (7/2). If you need help healing, you can find links for Practitioners here. I’m praying for you 🤍

Laura