Carolyn’s EMDR Journey

I’m about a year and a half out from completing my basic training in EMDR. I completed the basic training – 50 hours of training, over two three-day weekends – in December 2020.

 I’m a convert and an evangelist for EMDR now – so much so, that I just completed the lengthy process of becoming EMDR certified – the first level beyond basic training. I then plan to become an EMDR consultant so that I can train others in this paradigm-shifting therapeutic modality.

I firmly believe that the EMDR model is the future of not just trauma therapy, but of the field of psychotherapy. We need to move out of the heady, psychoanalytic, talk-only therapeutic modalities that have dominated the field since its inception in the times of Freud. 

As I often tell my clients, if CBT worked, all therapists would be out of a job. CBT basically says – the thought you’re having is irrational. Challenge it and you’ll stop thinking it, and you will act better and feel better.

Wow, if it were that easy, we would live in a healed world. Guess what? I’m still triggered when my husband leaves dishes in the sink, even though I know that this does not mean that he doesn’t care about me. Whatever triggers me is pre-cognitive, pre-rational, embodied, somatic, holistic, neurological. 

21st century therapy needs to go bigger, go further. We live in a world that is full of suffering and wounded people. We need healing desperately, and I don’t think talk therapy is going to cut it.

So, all of that to say – when I first started hearing about EMDR, I was intrigued. When I worked in community mental health in the early 2010s, I started hearing whispers about this “finger waving” therapy that had amazing results, but was “way too expensive” to train agency therapists in.

I was intrigued, but I was also dubious. It sounded too good to be true, and also, frankly, very weird. 

What did finger waving have to do with healing trauma? 

Still, I knew that talking endlessly with my very traumatized clients in the community agency was not really getting anyone anywhere. “Thought-challenging” with CBT was not resolving the extensive histories of abuse, violence, and systemic trauma that my clients experienced. Still, because of the cost of EMDR training, I never really considered it.

A few years later, when I was a doctoral student in social work, I was talking to a fellow student – also a community mental health therapist – whose clinical skills and theoretical approaches I deeply respected. She revealed to me that she was trained in EMDR! She began to explain why she found it to be so powerful, and her descriptions accorded exactly with my misgivings about traditional talk therapy. 

EMDR – a comprehensive, embodied, holistic, trauma-informed approach – was actually helping some of her most traumatized clients actually make progress. I decided to do more research. 

Lucky for me, due to COVID, many EMDR trainings had moved into being virtual, which meant I Was able to register for a basic training with Rebecca Kase & Co – a training agency located in Colorado! I completed my training from my cozy office outside of Philadelphia, logging on at 11am EST for a training starting at 9am MST.

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. So much so, that I was kind of zoning out at first during some of the lectures. But the video demonstrations of EMDR, and then the practicum that was part of the training, during which all participants got to be both therapist and client – whoa. 

The shifts I saw and felt, in myself and others, the way that the EMDR protocol could move past client defenses… this was the real deal.

Since basic training, I’ve continued consultation and advanced training, and I’ve gobbled up every book and article on EMDR that I can find. I’ve started to carve out specialties in using EMDR with complex trauma and dissociation, and with the perinatal population – pregnancy and pregnancy loss, birth trauma, infant loss, and postpartum challenges. 

Side note – I have been a mother since August 2016 and I am still experiencing postpartum challenges.

Let’s bust the myth that “postpartum” only refers to the year after a baby is born. Those two areas of practice are SO HARD, and I don’t think I’d be able to work in those areas with any measure of confidence if I did not have the tools and the conceptualization model that EMDR has given me. 

Years of challenging the thought of “I’m a failure as a mom” through CBT hasn’t gotten me or my clients very far.

Another major factor in my journey has been beginning EMDR therapy myself. I think all EMDR therapists should do this. Nothing gives you a sense of how the experience truly feels like being an EMDR client yourself does. 

Also, years of talk therapy did not shift deeply held beliefs, challenges, and triggers that EMDR therapy has started to move in several months. I am a believer in the model because I am living proof of its efficacy.

I’m so excited to be in the very midst of creating an EMDR-focused practice with my dear friend and colleague Michaela McDonald. We are both survivors and experiencers of postpartum and parenting trauma, and moms of 3. 

She is also EMDR-trained and we are forging ahead and taking risks and making mistakes and stumbling, as well as making gains and breaking paradigms and creating a supportive and healing practice environment – supportive and healing for clients and therapists. 

Much more to come on how that is going!

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