What are EMDR Intensives?
EMDR Intensives are designed to support clients who need more acute help to target their trauma so that they can focus therapy time on more day-to-day relationship or problem-solving skills. Others have busy lifestyles or frequent travel that doesn’t lend itself to a consistent weekly therapy schedule over the many months or years that are common with traditional therapy. EMDR intensives offer clients the ability to do a “deep dive” into their treatment.
EMDR as Adjunct Therapy
In addition, we often receive request for trauma treatment from clients who are already in therapy or have a trusted coach for other work, but need assistance from a therapist who is specifically trained in EMDR to work through underlying trauma. EMDR Adjunct Therapy allows you to keep your existing therapist who may not have EMDR training and add the EMDR component with a trained licensed professional. This can make proven trauma treatment an affordable option. Of course, there’s considerable research to support EMDR as add-on treatment for other conditions such as chronic pain, unipolar depression, and substance use disorders.
Benefits of EMDR Intensive Therapy
The benefits of an intensive, are that EMDR often produces faster results than conventional weekly sessions. The result is that clients heal more quickly and are able to process far more distressing material than is typical with talk therapy alone.
Not Just For Trauma
While EMDR is typically for trauma, it can also be used to address anxiety or depression and an EMDR intensive can offer the same benefits for those who do not have the availability or inclination for months of talk therapy. It’s more than a protocol, it’s really an entire therapy model that uses protocol and has some standardized steps. As such, it’s best administered by an experienced trauma therapist who understands the various nuances of trauma that might be complicated by attachment style, childhood and developmental trauma.
Why EMDR is so Popular: Rapid Relief in Less Time Than Talk Therapy
For most, the welcomed changes are noticeable and come fairly quickly. Because EMDR targets distressful traumatic memories, those suffering from trauma often report relief of various sorts within the session, days or, if not in a few weeks. This is why EMDR is so popular. It’s not uncommon for clients to report that traumatic memories that were experienced as intensely distressful start to feel neutral as though one were watching a movie of someone else’s life. More significantly, integration means that our bodies potentially have access to meaning from past events and we can live our lives more in the here-and-now without reexperiencing the past through triggers.
In addition, because of the ways we process memories, not every distressing incident need be the target of EMDR. In this way, EMDR is in contrast to exposure therapy, another common way of treating trauma. Another reason EMDR is so popular is that not every traumatic experience needs to be divulged in detail and shared with the therapist which in itself can be retraumatizing. We find that when we work on key memories, the healing effect is generalized to other parts of our memory and experience. In other words, not every memory need be excavated.
Past, Present and Future Distress
Following through with EMDR isn’t limited to past distress. EMDR intensives work on reducing distress associated with disturbing memories and events in the past, present and the future. After you have targeted past trauma, your therapist will work with you to maintain and develop skills and cognitive outlook to anticipate and address future problems.
Recap of Benefits
- Cost effective
- Quicker processing
- Results are long term
- Eliminates scheduled weekly appointments
How EMDR Works
EMDR Intensives Offer Flexible Administration
Most typically, EMDR involves moving the eyes from right to left rapidly while recalling traumatic events. Despite the acronym standing for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing,” EMDR can actually be directed in other ways using “tapping” and administered virtually via video. There’s some flexibility because as with other deep processing trauma interventions that are “bottom up,” i.e. not talk therapy, EMDR involves what we refer to as bilateral stimulation or “BLS” in which both sides of the brain are stimulated in alternating fashion quite quickly. Doing so allows us to activate the amygdala.
Getting Out of Survival Mode
The amygdala is the part of our brain so closely related to much of the felt stress of trauma. It releases stress hormones that creates the muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and quick breathing associated with our survival responses such as “fight-or-flight” or “freeze” when we simply shut down. It results in our experiencing a range of emotions that can flood our system and override our problem-solving and reality checking abilities.
“A half-day EMDR intensive is approximately $560 and four hours (inclusive of pre-determined and mutually agreed upon breaks). Roughly a month of weekly therapy in terms of cost and months of talk therapy in terms of equivalent outcome.”
How Long Are EMDR Intensives?
While the exact length of time for an EMDR intensive varies among clients, we can estimate how many sessions you might need because the EMDR protocol allows for processing of one distressing memory at a time. On average, one memory is processed per session. Two or three is not uncommon. Every EMDR intensive is preceded by sessions to help you attain emotional stability in an EMDR session and a lengthy trauma history taking session in which your distressing memories are compiled for later processing.
Ready? Steps For Your EMDR Intensive
- Consultation: Initiate your free EMDR consult by requesting your EMDR intensive in the comment box below.
- Assessment: Develop targeted treatment goals and assess appropriateness for EMDR
- Preparation: Learn specific strategies to downregulate if your recall of distressful memories is particularly intense. Also learn how to maintain focus and increase presence if you are inclined to dissociate.
- Reprocessing: The EMDR sessions.
- Post-Treatment Interview: Follow-up
to assess your progress, provide support and process results.
What are the Eight Phases of EMDR?
On average, most EMDR intensives occur over a 1-3 week period. Each individual is different. It’s possible to conduct EMDR in half days or over several full days.
For each individual EMDR session, there are eight specific phases through which your trained EMD therapist will guide you as part of reprocessing traumatic memory. They are:
- History taking and treatment planning
- Body Scan
You don’t keep repeating the history taking, preparation or assessment for each session of EMDR. These aspects may be modified, but for the most part, you repeat the desensitization through closure/re-evaluation phases with each target memory. The eighth phase, re-evaluation occurs in a separate session to follow up on any in-between session processing. In short, the brain’s processing is not dictated by the length of the specific EMDR session. Hopefully, it keeps doing naturally as a part of healing. The recommended treatment time is over a span of 10-12 sessions and each session lasts about ninety minutes. Some of the timing can be addressed in your pre-intensive consult.
Figuring Out Your EMDR Intensive Schedule
During the trauma history session, your availability and suitability for EMDR is also determined. From here, you can figure out roughly how many sessions you might need. The pacing will depend on your availability worked out in the trauma history session and your recovery time in between sessions.
Letting the Healing Process Unfold Organically
It’s not uncommon for clients to feel extremely tired and drained after EMDR sessions. The brain is doing a lot of work! Also, memories typically don’t stand in isolation from another.
Processing one memory can “shake the trauma tree” so to speak, of associated memories, good and bad, so that some clients recall events, have shifts in mood and may even have disturbing dreams in between sessions. These are often signs of a body integrating the past with current experience. Think of it as a needed software update after the trauma glitch has been repaired. The wheels stuck by trauma move forward on a train ride towards healing.
Integration and Healing
New recalled memories might even become food for additional sessions. For others, the reprocessing of traumatic material can evoke physiological manifestations during the session or afterwards such as trembling.
If you have scheduled a half-day intensive, you and your therapist will work out necessary breaks ahead of time. Of course, you can also opt for these breaks during the intensive.
Another variable for determining an appropriate amount of time for an EMDR intensive is that EMDR needs to occur in a trusting relationship with your therapist. That need not take months, but trust is not always easy for clients experiencing trauma.
“Learning skills to manage any dysregulation in your nervous system is part of the EMDR protocol.“
Variables to Consider
Some of variables to consider regarding EMDR intensives are:
- Suitability. This includes ability to stay within a window of emotional stability in which you can hear and respond to your therapist and not descend rapidly into your traumatic memory. It also requires ability to process a thought and use insight. Active substance use or use of benzodiazepines are contraindicated
- Availability for multiple EMDR sessions. (Distractions need to be minimized both in and out of sessions).
- Rapport with your therapist (i.e. feeling comfortable to engage in EMDR, that you understand the process and that your therapist cares and is sufficiently competent to administer the treatment).
- Your in-between session recovery and physiological adjustment to reprocessing.
- Preparation/research: This is always a valuable part of therapy. Doing your research beforehand can make you more invested in the process.
- Insurance Coverage. Even for out of network coverage for EMDR, reimbursement for EMDR intensives may not be available. The reason is that there are no practicable insurance codes for the length of such sessions. Insurance companies typically allow only for set amounts of time within certain timeframes.
Below is additional information to help you understand how trauma and other mental health conditions affect the healing process and how you can get the most out of your therapy sessions:
You can find other soundbites related to well-being, self-compassion and healing on our coaching website that adds a big picture perspective on well-being in the context of current events. Stay in tune with issues related to your well-being and mental health right here in the Urim Recovery Journal updated 2x a week.