EDMR What to Expect / FAQ

What is the treatment schedule?

I usually see EMDR clients for 1½ hour sessions once a week.

How long does it take?

For single-event adult traumas, three to five sessions may be enough. For issues that have roots in long-term childhood experiences, processing takes longer. The important thing is for us to go at your pace for maximum effectiveness.

What is treatment like?

I begin with a history, as I always do, to get a sense of your strengths and areas of concern. I will assess your ability to relax again after getting in touch with difficult memories. We may spend some time seeing what approaches to relaxation work best for you. Only when we are both confident in your skill in this area will we move on to face your experiences together.

To help you “metabolize” your difficult life experiences, we will explore how they have affected your self-esteem and how you would like to feel about yourself. Together we will attend to the emotions and sensations that come up when you get in touch with those experiences. I will give you a choice regarding a form of left-right stimulus—it could be visual, auditory, or tactile. This stimulus supports the nervous system in its “metabolizing” work. I will offer you the stimulus we agree on while you let the mind make whatever associations it needs to make. You just let whatever happens, happen. There is no right or wrong way for you to do this. I will only ask, from time to time, accurate feedback as to what you are experiencing. This feedback lets me know how best to assist you in your processing.

Typically clients begin to have insights and “aha” moments early in the treatment. At the end of sessions it is normal to feel tired from the work, but emotionally lighter. Our goal is to process the initial events, the present symptoms and, if applicable, to work toward enhancing positive responses to future stressors.

How much control will I have?

You will have considerable control. You will choose which issues to work on. You will have choices regarding the left-right stimulus. You will be able to signal me to stop at any time. You will have skills to help you return to a relaxed state after processing the emotions connected with your trauma or other issues.

Can I process more than one life experience?

Yes, certainly. Some events are so similar that they may be processed together. For less similar issues, however, the outline given above (under “What is treatment like?”) will be followed for each concern individually.

How safe is it?

EMDR, like any effective intervention, needs to be used by a careful clinician. During the history-taking I explore whether there are any personal or health concerns that either would need to be resolved first, or that would make EMDR inadvisable for you at that point in time.

Is EMDR hypnosis?

No, EMDR is not a hypnotic technique. In fact, the left-right stimulus helps keep clients grounded. EMDR can help you more toward a more accurate assessment of who or what was responsible for your trauma, how safe you are in the present, and your present ability to be in control.

What about false memories?

EMDR is not designed to help people retrieve memories, although some people do find themselves in touch with memories they had previously forgotten. Sometimes as the negative emotions from an image or memory are “metabolized” the picture fades or changes. Thus, if you are planning to be involved in a court case regarding your traumatic life event, it might be advisable to save treatment until afterward.

What about good memories?

EMDR helps enhance positive experiences and helps “metabolize” negative ones. When EMDR is used to support grief work it can help people remember the good times again.

How can I learn more?

You may email me a specific question on the “Contact” page of this site. You may also wish to explore the sites of the EMDR Institute (www.emdr.com) or the EMDR International Association (www.emdria.org).