Finding the right therapist can be difficult so it can be good to think about what you need before you get started and I always recommend people at least reach out to more than one person and when possible set appointments with more than one potential therapist and make your choice after that.

But first…

Before I get too into making your criteria and beginning the search, Austin has a large and thriving mental health community which makes this a lot easier.  If you are in an area where that is not the case, you may consider an option called “marathon sessions.”  For marathon sessions, you may be able to get some of the initial work done remotely via telehealth (depending on a lot of factors including but not limited to availability and regulations in your state), then travel to where your chosen therapist offices for 2-5 days and meet with him/her once each day for a 90 minute intensive session.  This may sound like a lot of work and it is.  But imagine the progress you could make in a long weekend if you decided to make the choice.

Getting started with selection process

Think about what you need to feel supported.  Do you need someone who is very honest and direct, or do you prefer someone to hold back and let you get there on your own?  This is important to know because they are very different styles and if one does not work for you and you get someone who does that, it can really add a lot of unneeded stress.

Really think about time of day and day of the week.  It can be really difficult to do some of this work then have to go back to work or kids or any number of other life stressors.  Can you build in time to take care of yourself afterwards?  And if so, what times of the day or days of the week are most likely to give you that flexibility?

Unique needs…

You may be ready to work through some really difficult trauma and you may not want to admit it but there may be some factors you want to consider like age or gender of the therapist, where they are located or tons of other factors.  For example, if you are planning to work through a sexual assault, you may not want to pick a therapist in a location that would require you to drive past the site of your assault each time you go to their office.

Next step

How to distinguish the levels of training in EMDR:

  • Trained” means they went through the ‘basic’ for first level of training and have had some supervision.
  • Certified” means they have completed basic and have completed additional training as well as had , a minimum of two years of experience, 20+ hours of clinician supervision by a consultant, completed a minimum of 50 hours of EMDR sessions with at least 25 different people.
  • Consultant” means the therapist has had a minimum of three years experience with EMDR, they have provided over 300 hours of EMDR with at least 75 different people and had another 20+ hours of consultation.

I think the single easiest way to find someone who is trained in EMDR is to go to  In the top right hand corner there is a "Find an EMDR Therapist" button.  The site will allow you to search for therapists in your area that are from all three different levels of training.  Based on location you can start to weed out from there.

  • Are they taking new clients?
  • Are they in a location that works for you?
  • Do they meet the criteria for you and your personality as well as any unique need you may have?

Your ready to start reaching out!

Then it's time to start calling or emailing to set up consultations.  Most therapists will let you set a 15-20 minute phone call so that you can get to know them a little and ask them some questions.  This can be a great way to dip your toe in and see if you want to set up and intake with them.  Again, if you can set up intakes with 2-3 different people so that you can find one that you feel comfortable with before you get really into the work.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

So last time we talked about what EMDR is and that basics for how it works.  Now, it’s time to explore whoEMDR is for.

What I often hear…

On the rare occasion that someone has heard of EMDR, they generally tell me one of two things:

  1. It is just for veterans. Well, it’s great for veterans but no it is definitely not just for veterans. (More on that later.)
  2. It is for single incident trauma. Again, it is great for that and you could even point out that the research shows that it has a higher rate of success with single incident vs. chronic trauma. (More on that as well.)

While EMDR is great for veterans and single event trauma, it is by no means just for that.

Francine Shapiro

Shapiro is actually the person who discovered or created EMDR.  She was a graduate student at the time and she was actually thinking about her own trauma (she is not a veteran and I do not believe it was a single incident) and that is the VERY short version on the roots of EMDR.

It was created as a trauma treatment.  When talk traditional talk therapy and time did not ‘get it done,’ EMDR was thought to be the next line of defense.

What we have learned is that it is helpful with other things as well.

Often people think it is for trauma only but that’s not true. Negative cognitions (mean self-talk or beliefs), events, even some thoughts can be ‘targeted’ using EMDR.

Where does the confusion come from?

I totally get why people have misconceptions about EMDR.  First, the belief or misunderstanding that EMDR is for veterans.  For several years the federal government was spending A LOT of money on researching veteran trauma and outcomes.  So a lot of money was spent researching EMDR specifically with veterans and a lot of those studies got a lot of attention because of that.

Sadly, it is difficult to get the same funding to, for example, research EMDR with adults who experienced chronic abuse or neglect by their parents/caregivers.  It isn’t impossible but there just is not the same funding so even when there is such a study, it’s smaller and doesn’t get the headlines that one the federal government funded over several years would get.

The other common misconception that it is for the treatment of a single incident.  I totally get why that belief is out there as well and part of that is research design. When I was in undergad I had the opportunity to be on a research project.  I got a crash course in what a pain it is to get funding, how diffiuclt it to actually design a study that you could get a approved to do and then pull in all the data and try to figure out what the heck it all means.

To put it simply, when someone has a single incident trauma it is easier to treat them but also the results of the study are clearer.  The more complex the trauma, the more complex the treatment and the longer term it is likely to be.  Which means there are more contributing factors which could change or modify your data interpretation and it is makes it a more expensive research project.  Sadly, again it comes back to funding.  That said, there is research on the success rate of EMDR with complex or non-single incident trauma and it is good, better than 50% (often as high as 80%) and anything higher than 50% is considered clinically significant.

Will EMDR work for everyone?

No.  Nothing works for everyone.  But if you have tried other things and you do not have the relief you want, what do you have to lose?  If you don’t do it, you know what you’ll get… More of what you have.  More beating yourself up, more flashbacks, more mood swings.  I could keep going but you know what I’m talking about.

While I'm sure I have not answered all your questions, I hope this was at least enough that you are willing to do some more digging for yourself.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

What is EMDR?

In grad school, knew I wanted to work with trauma so I looked for as many opportunities as I could find to learn about/study/read about trauma treatment.  That’s where I first heard about EMDR and learned about exposure treatments and hypnosis.

I took a brief training on exposure therapy and felt horrible.  I couldn’t imagine doing that to another human being. It would make sense to me in the treatment of phobias but not in the treatment of trauma.  (If it is has been helpful you, that’s awesome but I just couldn’t see myself asking another person to relive something traumatic over and over again until it didn’t hurt.)

Hypnosis seemed a bit like meds to me…. They could be helpful with symptoms but are they addressing then original problem?

Then there was EMDR.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  It is empirically supported (meaning the research on it is more positive than negative and the results can be repeated by other people replicating the experiment), it does not require you to relive the trauma and the results seems to be lasting.  Unlike psych meds that have a short-term impact then let you down later, but we can talk about meds another time.

So how does it work?

When your brain is in fight, flight or freeze, your brain stores information in a different place.  Let’s call it the E (E = emergency) drive, we call everything else R (R =Regular) drive.  When you have things (events, beliefs, thoughts) saved in your E drive, they aren’t necessarily rational (though some are) and they can come out and cause problems whenever they want to…. And it is typically when you don’t want them to.

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to move the item(s) stored in the E drive to the R drive.  The goal is not to forget or to remember things differently but simply to move the thought/event/belief out of the part of the brain where it can fight with your logic and reason (because it lives in your primitive brain that is responsible for all sorts of things like heart rate and body temperature) and simply resale it in a place where you can choose to engage it, or not.

Bilateral WHAT?!

Do you like music?  Have you ever noticed that listening to certain songs or types of music can help you relax or feel good?  Bilateral stimulation does something similar to the brain as music...  There are different ways to do it, but bilateral stimulation is about stimulating both hemispheres of the brain alternately.

Then what?

The best part to me, there is little chance that it will make things worse.  You don't have to relive the awful stuff that happened to you and the worst case scenario is that it doesn't help you.  I know that when you are looking for relief that is terrible but compared to other treatments that I felt would force everything to resurface, this felt soooo much better.

Of course it is difficult to sum up 30ish years of research on a particular topic but I think this hits a lot of the high notes and a lot of the questions I get initially about EMDR.  There is a ton of information about it available and I'm glad to answer more questions as best I can.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

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