Difficulties with EMDR
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Old 01-22-2013, 04:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Difficulties with EMDR

Having some difficulties concentrating/focusing during EMDR... I can't seem to access very deep emotions and I'm worried it is making the sessions unproductive and a waste of time.

Has anyone experienced this, and if so, any suggestions to overcome it?
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

huh, I have just recently (as in one session so far) done EMDR (still trying to cope with the traumatic betrayal part of dday), yes each round going through was a different reaction, first couple I found myself feeling it too close, on a few, especially later ones I did not go very deep, my mind was all over the place. I don't think it's unproductive, but then this is a really new therapy for me. When I was all over I found that just focussing on one dark thought and tuning out the rest got me deep quickly, when it could. I just hope I'm not reliving all this painful trauma over again and again just for sh1ts and giggles, I am finding it a little emotionally difficult to want to do this any more with my therapist.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

Lon I'm confused... You've done EMDR once or multiple times?

I've tried a few times but always find my inability to access deeper emotions to be quite frustrating. I am an incredibly sensitive person. I cry at commercials for goodness's sake, but I can't get to my buried feelings.

I've tried focusing (as directed by the therapist) one just an image and the thoughts associated with it... Just doesn't work. At best I might feel something for a split second and then my brain is off and running about other things - related or not. I just can't seem to stay with it for some reason.

Lon if you're feeling and processing the emotions it shouldn't be a waste of time.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

Well not sure what the "proper" way is, but my therapist would start and then after a few moments stop and clear my mind, then would start again, this happened about 7 or 8 times. All in one one hour session (well about 15-20 minutes of EMDR)

Maybe for you the painful memory isn't all that sharp, or not enough to be able to reprocess it all? I think for me that was a part of the rounds where my mind was drifting to other painful memories but I wasn't sinking into them.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

Ok, I see what you are saying... Yes, that is a normal part of EMDR. (For me it's distracting, lol).

I'm not sure about the memory we've targeted right now. It's very clear in my mind, I remember so many details. I know I felt very scared at the time and I'm certain that because of this event I am having difficulties functioning as an adult.

I'm thinking of asking my therapist for a different method of reprocessing these things. Like you, my mind is everywhere it shouldn't be during the session, lol! It's honestly very aggravating, though. :/

I can't seem to find anything online about this specific issue... ::sigh::
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:13 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

I'm a therapist who uses EMDR as my primary method and I've also personally had EMDR therapy for anxiety, panic, grief, and “small t” trauma. As a client, EMDR worked extremely well and also really fast. As an EMDR therapist, and in my role as a facilitator who trains other therapists in EMDR (certified by the EMDR International Assoc. and trained by the EMDR Inst, both of which I strongly recommend in an EMDR therapist) I have used EMDR successfully with panic disorders, PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, body image, phobias, distressing memories, and bad dreams.

YinPrincess, I wonder if you did the 2nd phase of EMDR therapy before you started working on that one really bad memory? Phase 2 in EMDR involves preparing for memory processing or desensitization (memory processing or desensitization - phases 3-6 - is often referred to as "EMDR" which is actually an 8-phase psychotherapy). In this phase resources are "front-loaded" so that you have a "floor" or "container" to help with processing the really hard stuff. In Phase 2 you learn a lot of great coping strategies and self-soothing techniques which you can use during EMDR processing or anytime you feel the need. You learn how to access a “Safe or Calm Place” which you can use at ANY TIME during EMDR processing (or on your own) if it feels scary, or too emotional, too intense - or somehow too slippery to keep in mind!

I also wonder if you were asked to bring up the image, the negative belief about yourself NOW, the feelings that come up now when you bring up that event, and WHERE YOU FEEL THE DISTURBANCE IN YOUR BODY (after giving a number to how disturbing the event is for you now on a 0-10 scale)? Just bringing up the image and "the thoughts associated with it" are unlikely to get you into it enough to process.

One of the key assets of EMDR is that YOU, the client, are in control NOW, even though you haven't felt in control during the old event(s). You NEVER need re-live an experience or go into great detail, ever! You NEVER need to go through the entire memory. YOU can decide to keep the lights (or the alternating sounds and/or tactile pulsars, or the waving hand) going, or stop them, whichever helps titrate – measure and adjust the balance or “dose“ of the processing. During EMDR processing there are regular “breaks” and you can control when and how many but the therapist should be stopping the bilateral stimulation every 25-50 passes of the lights to ask you to take a deep breath and ask you to say just a bit of what you’re noticing. (The stimulation should not be kept on continuously, because there are specific procedures that need to be followed to process the memory). The breaks help keep a “foot in the present” while you’re processing the past. If you lose the image, that's not unusual. Going "back to the original event" should help but if it doesn't, noticing what you're feeling in your body is key. Your mind might go "everywhere" and that's normal, too. Your mind and body are making the associations necessary to detoxify the memory. Again, and I can’t say this enough, YOU ARE IN CHARGE so YOU can make the process tolerable. And your therapist should be experienced in the EMDR techniques that help make it the gentlest and safest way to neutralize bad life experiences and build resources.

Pacing and dosing are extremely important! So if you ever feel that EMDR processing is too intense, then it might be time to go back over all the resources that should be used both IN session and BETWEEN sessions. Your therapist should be using a variety of techniques to make painful processing less painful, like suggesting you turn the scene in your mind to black and white, lower the volume, or, erect a bullet-proof glass wall between you and the painful scene, or, imagine the abuser speaking in a Donald Duck voice... and so forth. There are a lot of these kinds of "interventions" that ease the processing! Bringing your adult self into the memory is a great strategy. Your therapist can use what we call "cognitive interweaves" to help bring your adult self's perspective into the work as well. Such interweaves are based around issues of Safety, Responsibility, and Choice. So therapist questions like "are you safe now?" or "who was responsible? and "do you have more choices now?" are all very helpful in moving the processing along.

Grounding exercises are terrifically helpful. You can also use some of the techniques in Dr. Shapiro's new book "Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR." Dr. Shapiro is the founder/creator of EMDR but all the proceeds from the book go to two charities: the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program and the EMDR Research Foundation). Anyway, the book is terrific. It's an easy read, helps you understand what's "pushing" your feelings and behavior, helps you connect the dots from past experiences to current life. Also gives lots of really helpful ways that are used during EMDR therapy to calm disturbing thoughts and feelings.

In addition to my therapy practice, I roam the web looking for EMDR discussions, try to answer questions about it posted by clients/patients, and respond to the critics out there. It's not a cure-all therapy, however, it really is an extraordinary method and its results last. Check out the research: emdr dot com/general-information/research- overview dot html>. In the hands of a really experienced EMDR therapist, it's the most gentle way of detoxifying really horrid experiences.
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Old 01-23-2013, 07:52 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

Dr. Patti Jane - Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful response!

My therapist and I have done a bunch of preparation (safe places, etc.) And I feel I am able to cope with whatever comes up... But nothing comes up! I don't feel any intense emotions in spite of the fact that my SUDs are 8-10 in range.

My mind wanders horribly during the sessions. The clock ticking on the wall, the other various noises and sounds in the building (my therapist's office is a very busy place and often there are a lot of children in there), this all makes it very hard for me to focus.

I can't access deeper emotions, if only briefly for about a second, before I'm distracted again and thinking about what I want for lunch. (LoL)

I've recently been diagnosed with ADHD, (in addition to SPD, Misophonia, GAD and PTSD). I wonder if that is the root of my problem?

I did have "some disassociation" prior to beginning EMDR, and I'm not sure if this is a factor as well.

I'm a highly sensitive person. It doesn't take much at all to move me or for me to empathize with others. If you stepped on an ant, I would cry for it. (Not even kidding)!

But I can't feel anything about being molested as a child. I don't understand why?!
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:27 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

Given all the "extra" stuff you mention (ADHD, dissociation, etc) it's not surprising to me that it's taking you time to get into the memory. Did you try a less intense target memory first? That might be helpful, even something we all experience (as long as you still feel some disturbance from bringing it up, SUDs maybe a 3) like being embarrassed/humiliated in school? Preferably something that happened prior to the molestation. That way you could feel the experience of EMDR therapy at work while processing something much less disturbing. Just a thought. Sounds like your therapist knows what (s)he's doing. Keep at it! Feelings (and memories) can stay "buried" for good reasons, and need to emerge when they're ready and safe enough.
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

Yes, we first tried with a less disturbing target, unfortunately it was also a very recent one. I don't think I can recall anything prior to the molestation (I'm guessing I was about age 4 when it happened).

I guess we can keep trying and see what happens... I'm just kind of shocked that I don't seem to feel anything about this, even though it's bothered me and been a big family secret my whole life. :/

Yesterday my therapist took down her wall clock (which ticks very loudly and out-of-sync with the auditory beeping in the headphones) and she also brought in a white-noise machine, which was very soothing. Hopefully next session I'll be able to get through to something.

Thank you again for your responses.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:53 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

YinPrincess, I just saw a post in my EMDR listserv that I thought would be of interest to you and your therapist since it addresses the issue of "going blank" and not being able to access emotions. She said:
"I had a client who frequently said she noticed “nothing” when she was avoiding uncomfortable feelings and another who frequently shifted her attention away from uncomfortable emotions and towards positive thoughts and feelings during reprocessing. I spent a lot of time teaching them mindfulness skills to help them to be able to notice, tolerate and accept uncomfortable emotions. When we returned to reprocessing, they would still sometimes revert to the old way of coping, so I would ask them if they had gone outside their optimal window of tolerance for arousal and if they needed a break. If they could continue, I encouraged them to notice what came up before they shifted their attention to nothing or positive thoughts."
Hope this helps!
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Old 01-24-2013, 07:40 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Difficulties with EMDR

Thank you again for your insight. I think this may be a possibility... I've experienced a lot of shame and embarrassment of this incident over the years. My younger brother, who was present at the time, would sometimes make "jokes" about it at off-hand times and I would just want to crawl in a hole and die. I would feel angry that he thought it was "funny" and angry that he would bring it up when all I wanted to do was forget about it. I just remember wanting to change the subject whenever he did this... Perhaps that is what I'm doing in therapy as well.

I will talk to my therapist about this and see what she thinks we should do so I can process this and get rid of my negative self-beliefs because of it...

Thanks for being so insightful and patient in your responses!
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