Today was my first real experience with EMDR.
I’ve met with Lori, the therapist who will be working with me, once before, but that was just a basic get-to-know-you session. We talked about why I sought EMDR therapy and my general back ground, that kind of thing. Today was trauma history, which I was really dreading, but actually turned out not to be that bad at all. I sent her a copy of my writing from Telling the Story, so she really only had precursory questions before we started on the actual EMDR exercise. I hope that those of you who are starting, considering, or know someone undergoing EMDR find this helpful. I had done a lot of research on the subject but everything I read was very vague and I like to know details. I’m sure everyone’s experience will be different, as will each therapist’s method, but I’d like to share my initial experience with EMDR therapy.
First Lori had me situate myself so I was comfortable and relaxed. I was sitting on a sofa with my left arm on the arm rest and my legs on the floor in front of me in a natural and relaxed position. She told me to place one of my hands on my stomach and focus on my breathing. Not to change my breathing, but just to learn the rhythm. Learn the pattern that my body has. When I was familiar with the pattern of my breathing I was to let her know. Then she had me focus on the hand that was resting on my stomach. To feel how it moved up when I took a breath, and down when I exhaled. She told me to close my eyes and focus on that. I felt my thumb rise and fall with each breath and became familiar with it. She asked me to picture a place that I felt safe. It could be a place that I had been before, one I made up, inside, outside, a beach, anything. Just build it in my head and when I could see it to tell her it was.
It was a forest.
She asked me to keep breathing and to describe what I saw.
It’s not a really old forest. But it’s not a young forest either. The canopy is overgrown so that it’s shady but the sun still shines through the leaves. It’s shadowy but not dark. The light is kind of dappled. Almost soft. It’s not an evergreen forest either. There are big moss covered boulders and fallen trees. It’s the beginning of fall because everything is still green but it’s not hot. I guess it could be spring, I don’t know.
Tell me what you smell and hear. Tell me what you feel.
I don’t hear anything. I feel the sun shining through the trees on my face. And I can feel a breeze. It’s not a cool breeze, just a nice breeze. It makes the air feel alive. I can smell trees and dirt and water. Maybe there is a stream nearby. I can feel twigs and the uneven ground under my feet.
While continuing to focus on the forest and all the positive feelings it was giving me, she asked me–when I was ready–to open my eyes and follow her pen with my eyes. She moved her pen in almost an L shape a few times before pausing.
She asked how I felt.
She asked me to think of a word that represented that place, and the feelings it gave me.
She asked me to focus on that word, serenity, and the good feelings and follow her pen again with my eyes.
I tried, but this time something was intruding. Serenity is the name of a Joss Whedon movie, and the Reavers kept popping into my mind. Not what you want during EMDR.
When her pen stopped she asked again how I felt.
She asked me to focus on the paused feeling and the word serenity and to follow her pen again. How did I feel.
Like a lake. Calm. At peace.
She said it seemed like I was able to conjure and imagine the place with great detail fairly easily which is a good sign, and I mentioned the connection I had made between my word serenity and the movie Serenity, so we changed the word to serene. She said it was very helpful for her to know that, and my first true EMDR appointment is next Tuesday!
Overall, the EMDR ‘walk-through’ took very little effort. I would say that the hardest part was being honest and saying the first thing I was feeling or thinking as opposed to coming up with the “right” answer. The further into the exercise we got, the less self-conscious I became, and the more relaxed I felt. It was something like getting a massage. It was that level of relaxation. I don’t know if it will be that way with the ‘official’ EMDR given that it will deal with trauma, but the practice version was very reassuring. I hope that this was in some way helpful to some of you. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them, or at least try.