Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing

The most comprehensive information about EMDR is available on the web at  www.EMDR.org.

The website explains what EMDR is, and answers FAQs, including mention of possible side effects.

If you are considering doing EMDR with Dr. Marlo, you are advised to take a look at the information available and ask as many questions as you need in order to fully understand the procedure and feel comfortable with it before you begin.

I first heard about EMDR in about 1996, when I was just starting as a young therapist in a group practice. The Clinical Director at my office talked about it very animatedly, and frankly, I thought she was nuts. Since that particular therapist did a number of other things that I thought were kinda wacky, I just considered EMDR to be the most current alternative therapy she was doing and I discounted it as a serious clinical tool.

Fast forward 5 years to 2001 and I had become a licensed psychologist with some experience beneath my belt, and had opened my own private practice. I joined some networking groups and began talking with other clinicians about their practices and darn if I didn’t hear about that goofy EMDR again. However, I did have to sit up and take notice this time because I didn’t think that the people who were talking about it were wacky. I actually had a great deal of professional respect for them. So I listened. They would come to clinical meetings absolutely jazzed about the great successes they had had with their clients, using EMDR. They would tell stories of people who were seriously traumatized, panicky, obsessing, or otherwise stuck, and how effective EMDR was at relieving symptoms. I started to think there must be something to this EMDR.

Eventually I had a client I was working with, a woman who was just stuck. All the talk therapy in the world didn’t seem to be doing this woman a bit of good and she was an intelligent, motivated client, so I was really racking my brain to think of something that might help her. Suddenly, the thought occurred to me that EMDR might help. I referred her to one of my professional colleagues for a few EMDR sessions and her phobia was lifted.

I also had to realize, in that moment, that I was giving away my business because I had been too stubborn or foolish to really look into EMDR as a serious treatment method, so I completed Level 1 EMDR training in 2001.

As part of the training, you do need to practice the procedure on each other. The instructors encourage you to target an actual trauma from your own life, but not a very serious trauma so that everyone can practice on something that is real, but not too difficult for their first attempts to use the methods.

Well, I have been very fortunate in that my life doesn’t really include a lot of serious trauma, so I was having some trouble coming up with an example I could use. The instructor was trying to help people come up with ideas by mentioning that even accidental injuries could be considered a trauma and that sparked me to remember that I had, in fact, been bitten, in the face, by a dog, when I was a little kid.

I didn’t even think of that as a trauma because first of all, it didn’t really even hurt, second of all, it was a friendly dog and I know he didn’t even mean to bite me. He had a broken toe and I accidentally stepped on his broken toe while my friend and I were dancing around and the dog just chomped on my face once, reflexively, and then instantly stopped and put his head down, knowing that what he had just done was very bad. Third, it was actually kinda fun to me to go to the hospital to get stitches. I had never done that before and found the whole experience pretty interesting. Fourth, I got a lot of attention at school for having stitches in my face and that was cool to be the center of attention, and finally, when the bite eventually healed, it left me with a scar on my cheek that dips in when I smile, and I thought it was actually sorta cute, so I ended up with a scar dimple out of the deal, too. So, definitely not a trauma in my mind, but I figured it would do for the purposes of our training exercise.

As we were going through the exercise, eventually the instructor was spending more and more time around our group as if something in our group wasn’t going quite right. He asked me a few questions and determined that my dog bite trauma was, in fact, much more serious than I had imagined. It seems that I had dissociated during the original incident. I’d been a therapist for years and it never registered with me that my memory of that event was from above, as if I was watching the whole thing from the upper corner of the room. Of course I had dissociated! How else on earth is a dog bite to your face not going to hurt?! So, it turned out that I had actually chosen quite a serious trauma after all and the instructor stopped us since it was too sophisticated a problem for our group to deal with in an introductory training program.

I didn’t think much more about it, but just went on with my training. However, over the next 2 years, I noticed a dramatic change in my orientation towards dogs. Prior to the training, I had nothing particular against dogs, but I didn’t like them.  I wasn’t afraid of them, but I could pretty much take or leave them. I thought they were dirty, smelly, not very intelligent, and basically a pet for someone other than me. However, in the months that followed that training, I found myself drawn more and more to dogs, actually liking dogs, and even thinking about getting a dog as a pet. Turns out, I love dogs, but my childhood trauma had kept me from knowing that for over 30 years and one incomplete session of EMDR, done by an introductory student, cured me of my traumatic experience and changed my entire orientation towards dogs!

I was absolutely amazed and I completed the Level Two training the very next year.

Since 2002, I have used EMDR sparingly in my practice. I don’t think it’s appropriate for everything, although I do have colleagues who would beg to differ. However, when I have used it, I have found it quite effective to relieve suffering and change reactions to traumas in a way that talk therapy simply does not.

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