*Casey had been to therapy a couple of times to get help with her panic attacks. Recently, she had started medication for anxiety but her fear of rejection and her inability to say no was starting to impact her health. Migraines and nausea were becoming a regular experience. Casey was 38. She knew her fear of rejection was rooted in her relationship with her mother, whom she could never please, but told herself, “you can’t change the past.” Casey had thought about going back to therapy worried that it would take years to see results, if it worked at all, or that dredging up the past would just make her feel worse. The symptoms kept getting worse and so she decided to give therapy one more try.
Casey’s therapist asked if Casey had ever heard of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Casey wasn’t sure but thought it had come up in some podcast she’d listened to about trauma. Casey’s therapist spoke about the link between unresolved past issues and present symptoms and behaviours and how, with EMDR, past issues can be resolved and present behaviours changed. Casey was hopeful, or at least, felt like she didn’t have much to lose and decided to go forward with EMDR. Casey’s therapist gave her the option of booking the EMDR sessions over the next couple of months or doing them all at once over a couple of days. Casey thought about how long she had been dealing with this anxiety and how desperate she was to see a change and, even though several full days of therapy seemed overwhelming, decided that she was ready to address this issue head on and get it over with.
Casey and the therapist decided to plan for three days to give time to address past issues in Casey’s family of origin, other unresolved experiences from her university days, and then give time to address her current patterns of response to others. Casey expected this to be incredibly overwhelming, but was surprised how, throughout the day, with each new event that was processed, she felt tired, but lighter, New perspectives were falling into place. While processing a memory about a falling out with a friend in junior high school and how her mother had responded coldly to Casey’s tears telling Casey that maybe her friend was just bored of her, Casey was able to grieve that she didn’t get the comfort or advice she needed at that time and began to understand that her mother, who had few friends of her own, was likely projecting her own insecurities on to Casey. Casey was able to put that memory away, with the relief that she was not just a boring person who had to please others to stay in relationship. That that belief was not something she had to carry anymore. Other memories also became less intense and more like a photo in an old photo album that she could now put away and which no longer caused her distress. When Casey and her therapist had finished working through the past events, that that had identified in Casey’s treatment plan, they then focused on present behaviours where Casey would overcommit until she felt physically unwell. At this point, Casey was able to see how she had been applying old beliefs about herself and her value in a way that was causing her harm. With the new perspectives gained from processing old memories, she was able to imagine new ways of interacting with others. She wrote the word ‘valuable’ on a small rock to represent the fact that she was valuable to the people in her life even if she wasn’t constantly working to please them. She planned to carry rock around as a reminder to herself until this knew belief about herself became fully a part of her..
At the end of the three days, Casey felt like a new person. She was tired, and felt like she had a lot to think about. She went home and journaled about all the new perspectives and beliefs that had come up during the intensive. Over the next weeks, Casey noticed changes in her daily life. She was able to act according to her new beliefs and her nausea and migraines were significantly reduced. A year later, Casey decided to check in with the therapist to talk about a new situation that involved a boss who was a bit of a bully. Casey and her therapist spoke about how the work and healing Casey had done could apply to this situation and Casey was able to make a plan to address the issues with the boss and if nothing changed to consider another position that had previously been offered to her knowing that her job was not to try and please this unappreciative boss at all costs.
Intensive therapy is something that has been around for some time, usually provided by trauma specialists.
The benefits of being able to address longstanding issues ‘all in one go’ include:
- Not having to travel to and from appointments over a longer period of time;
- Not having to spend 20 minutes every appoitnment updating your therapist about what has happened in the past weeks since you last spoke;
- Not being sidelined by other life events, when you are trying to address an issue;
- And getting to see big changes, quickly.
EMDR intensives are recommended for those ready to commit to a treatment for unresolved past events, current symptoms and unhealthy behavioural or relationship patterns. Some examples include:
Experiences: Symptoms: Behaviours:
Loss Anxiety Addictive behaviour
Bullying Depression Risky behaviour
Abuse/neglect Nightmares Impulsive behaviour
Traumatic birth experiences Flashbacks Avoidant or clingy
Sexual abuse Dis-regulation behaviour
Vehicle/work accidents Dissociation Difficulty connecting
Conflict in relationships Aches and Pains to others
Witnessing/victim of domestic Lack of trust
Witnessing/victim of crime
EMDR is beneficial in the treatment of ongoing traumatic stress experienced by first responders such as police, paramedics, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, and other helping professionals faced with vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue
EDMR is not recommended for persons in the first trimester of pregnancy or experiencing a complicated pregnancy. It is also not recommended for someone in crisis or experiencing an unsafe living situation as safety issues need to be addressed first.
If and EMDR intensive sounds like something you’d like to do, you will need to book a one hour assessment appointment to determine if an intensive would be recommended and, for how long. Even if it is not recommended for you or you decide not to go ahead with it or to postpone it, your assessment appointment will provide you with recommendations and resources to help you address your current situation.
If you do go ahead with an intensive, treat your intensive like a personal retreat or wellness day(s). Plan for relaxing and enjoyable activities before and/or after your session. EMDR intensives can be mentally and emotionally exhausting so avoid any intensive tasks or activities following your treatment.
For more information about EMDR click here
To book an initial assessment with Joy Eidse in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, click here.
Also check out my post Processing Memories with EMDR
*This case is not intended to represent any particular person or situation. Any similarities to an actual person or real life situation is purely coincidental.