August 16, 2018

Who is EMDR right for?

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!

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