Sunday, February 8, 2015

Questions about EMDR

[updated February 12, 2015]

Here are some common questions I have been asked about EMDR followed by my answers:

What do I have to do?
Nothing.  EMDR is an alternative to your usual way of solving problems by doing something.  With EMDR you do nothing.  You do not try.  You do not try to do something, and you do not try not to do something.  You do not even try to relax.  You just observe whatever arises.

Does there have to be an alliance based on trust and safety with the therapist in order for EMDR to work?
No, strictly speaking, you do not need to "trust" the therapist for EMDR to work.  But the therapist does need to be skilled at prompting during the process, including helping the client formulate pertinent questions, articulate fears and process emotions.  As in all therapy, the client has to feel safe enough to explore the issues that arise.  Ideally, trust is present and safety is assured. 

Do I have to believe in EMDR for it to work? 
No.  EMDR is not hypnosis or a placebo.  It is a form of bilateral (two-sided) stimulation to the brain that prompts your adaptive capacity without using suggestion.

How does it work?
EMDR is thought to enhance inter-hemispheric communication like Rapid Eye Movement (R.E.M.) sleep.   It is also thought to run interference with short-term memory cycles which, by regurgitating information processing patterns, can get us stuck in mental and emotional ruts.  EMDR is relaxing and also seems to improve our access to resources we never knew we had.  That said, nobody really knows how it works.

How do I put EMDR into action with my addiction? Can I use EMDR when I feel stressed or anxious?
EMDR can hep reduce stress, but it is not a replacement for the tools you need to manage stress or fight addiction.  It is a catalyst for emotional and mental processing that enables you to apply these tools and strategies more effectively and with less emotional reactivity.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

therapist neutrality

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Many individuals expect therapists to resolve conflict by taking sides.  But therapy does not work that way.

A therapist is not qualified to tell you what to do; she holds no degree in right and wrong.  If she wants to pose as a moral authority, take sides in a conflict or tell people what to do, she is in the wrong business.  She should take up preaching or law enforcement instead.

A therapist is no substitute for the voice of God, Reason or Fairness.  Rather, she helps clients find their own voices and the solutions that feel good, right or fair to them.  

Most people are relieved to hear this.  They don’t want a therapist telling them what to do or taking sides.  Others, not so much.  They only want neutrality when their therapist is hearing someone else’s side, but agreement when hearing their own.  They have a mandate and want results: get my wife to stay in the marriage, make my kids respect me.  Change their minds or… you’re fired!  They want the therapist to eradicate the problem by changing someone else.  

But therapists are not hit men who take care of conflict this way.  They are more like doulas  assisting in the organic process of human growth, facilitators of change.

Sometimes growth means allowing others room to grow themselves, even if we do not like what they are becoming.  Sometimes it means adapting to situations we cannot change by changing our strategies or ourselves instead.

In fact, change is what therapy is all about.
author's note (added April 11, 2106): neutrality applies only within a framework of non-violence.  Most therapists use some some variation of non-violent communication to guarantee safety during sessions.  Therapist neutrality does not mean enabling aggression, including passive aggression.