Getting Specific: Expanding EMDR to Address the Individual

I attended a training a couple of months ago led by Laurel Parnell, Ph.D. She is a leading EMDR practitioner and trauma specialist, and provides clinical training for behavioral health professionals all over the world. I’ve been using EMDR in my practice for several years, and found that I was not following the protocols the way I was taught, but was modifying them to fit the individual needs of my clients and their specific trauma situations. I took the training because I wanted a refresher in the protocols, only to learn that Dr. Parnell was proposing similar modifications of the protocols. The seminar reinforced that I was right to use my intuition and to be flexible with how I used EMDR with my clients. That increased my confidence and gave me permission to continue to experiment.

EMDR is a technique that allows the client and therapist to engage both sides of the body, which engages both sides of the brain, and this allows us to get past the barriers the conscious brain puts up for protection in order to get into the subconscious, where the real work is done. This is what makes EMDR so effective. People can spend years in talk therapy and never really get to the heart of their issues, because they reside in the subconscious mind. Trauma work must be done at this deeper level, and it must include the body because trauma gets embedded in the body — almost at a cellular level. So the machine I use can use eye movement with lights, sound with headphones that produce an alternating tone, and small vibrators that you can hold in your hands. The alternating movement and sound – right, left – is what engages the brain. It’s very simple really, but very effective.

I’m finding powerful effects with my clients’ ability to resolve childhood trauma, PTSD, and many other emotional issues such as phobias, OCD, and addiction symptoms such as triggers.