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Understanding EMDR Therapy: Basics, Process, and Benefits

In this episode, Miranda Barker, LICSW is joined by Amber Silva, LLMS and Gina Young, LICSW as they dive into the fascinating world of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Amber and Gina, both experienced mental health professionals, provide an in-depth look at what EMDR is, its origins, and how it helps in processing trauma and other mental health issues.

They discuss the basics of the EMDR process, including the importance of creating a safe space and the various methods of bilateral stimulation used in therapy. They also talk about their personal experiences with EMDR, the different types of traumas it can address, and its application for both children and adults.

Whether you’re a therapist interested in training or someone curious about how EMDR can help, this episode offers valuable insights and practical information.

Read the Transcript:

Miranda (Host): Welcome to the Therapist Thrival Guide. My name is Miranda Barker. I’m a licensed clinical social worker and I’m here with Amber and Gina. Amber, do you want to go ahead and introduce yourself first?

Amber: Yeah, absolutely. My name is Amber. I’m a co clinical director at Ellie Mental Health Ann Arbor in Michigan. I am an LLMSW.

Miranda: What does that mean? LLMSW?

Amber: Limited License Masters of Social Work.

Miranda: Got it. Okay. So in our state, is that the same as like an LGSW?

(Amber nods)

Gina: Gina, take it away. Okay. Hi, I’m Gina. I’m at Ellie, Minnesota at the Mendota Heights location.

I’ve been with Ellie for four years. and I am the director of the Embedded and In Home Therapy team.

Miranda: Awesome. Gina has been on our podcast so many times because she was my clinical supervisor and so she feels like she has to say yes to me whenever I ask her to do things.

What is EMDR?

Miranda: But today we are talking about EMDR and I knew that this was a topic that Gina would want to talk about. This is probably the most requested topic –I mean, people are always messaging me with topic ideas or like putting it in reviews, which if you’re listening to this, please rate and review on your, on your podcast platform.

EMDR just keeps coming up because I think people are so fascinated by it. And I personally don’t know a ton about it. I have had several clients that I have referred over to Gina for EMDR, and so I’m excited to have this episode and talk a little bit more. So yeah, where do we want to get started?

Why don’t we, why don’t we just talk about like, you know, really basics. What does EMDR stand for? What is EMDR?

Gina: EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. It was developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s when she realized that there was a connection between bilateral stimulation, and I’ll go on to explain that, and processing difficult thoughts and memories.

And bilateral stimulation is just sensory experiences on one side of the body and then the other side of the body. that’s simply, very simply put.

Bilateral Stimulation Techniques

Gina: And then EMDR allows a lot of different options. for, bilateral stimulation depending on the client’s preference. The most traditional one that we see, I think in media is the going back and forth, like this with your fingers.

And you’re like, how am I going to do this for like 10 clients all day long without my arm hurting?

Amber: We also did like the butterfly hug, so also like crossing your arms and tapping left and right on your shoulders, which is a great alternative for, again, when you’re on the video screen, sometimes you’re not getting the full bilateral.

So doing the tapping, you’re getting the left, like left, right, left, right, on, virtual sessions.

Gina: Yeah. And I think there’s even like tapping your knees too, like my therapist and I see each other over telehealth. And she can’t tap for me, so I tap my own knees while I’m doing my own processing, right?

And then there’s also, I call them buzzies. Amber, I don’t know what you call them. But they’re little handheld plastic devices that vibrate and you hold one in each hand and it plugs in.

Amber: I have the ones where you can do it from your phone. So you can just be sitting there and your client can hold on to them.

Miranda: So for those of you that are listening or reading and not watching the video, it looks like kind of a remote control or like a guitar pedal or something.

Gina: This is the box that controls everything. These are the devices that you hold in your hands.

Miranda: Oh, they look like something that you’d put on your chest to like, and do “clear!” Yeah, they’re like little, they’re small discs.

Gina: Yeah. And they vibrate. And with this box that Miranda talked about, it’s like a remote, I can control how fast the vibration is and then how intense the vibration is, and then you could also plug in headphones to this and there could be sound.

That’s the other way we do bilateral simulation is sound. and I can control the volume of the sound. So if I have somebody that needs two ways of bilateral stimulation, like that works best for them, we might do the buzzies as these are called. And then we also might do sound and they would wear headphones and the sound would go back and forth.

Miranda: I’ve also seen that there are ways that you can do it with lights. Is there like a, how does it, are light bars?

Gina: (Nods) Some people in Ellie, Minnesota, have light bars and they’re really large. they’re like, Sometimes a foot to two feet to three feet long, and they have little tiny Christmas lights in them, and they, the light will flash quickly from one side to the other.

So then nobody has to move their hands. The client can just stare at the lights going back and forth. And again, you can control those. Like from a remote control with the light bar. The light bar is expensive. It’s probably the most expensive option. We’re talking like 600 to 1, 000 depending on the light bar.

So that’s certainly an option too for somebody who has a heavy caseload of EMDR. A light bar would make a lot of sense.

Miranda: So there are so many different tools to kind of mimic that bilateral stimulation, but could you explain a little bit more about what the bilateral stimulation is or like what is going on with our bodies when that’s, when you’re kind of going from left to right?

Gina: Yes, absolutely.

Understanding Trauma and Memory Processing

Gina: And Amber, please feel free to like interrupt me, if I’m getting anything wrong or if you want to add anything from my understanding of it is when our brain experiences a trauma that overwhelms our brain. Go into fight, flight, or freeze, right, or fawn, and the memory will break up and get stuck in different parts of our brain, right?

So the part of it that wants to tell the story, it’s stuck in that part of the brain. The part of it that is about the senses, as far as like what we saw, what we smelled, what we felt, those are stored in different parts of the brain. and that’s an adaptive way for us to continue to move forward, right?

It’s a little bit of like compartmentalizing is your body’s like, well, I can’t think about this all at once. It’s, it’s going to stay stored in these different parts of the brain. And eventually your brain, like any other structure in your body wants to heal, right? And wants to process and bring those things together.

So EMDR is the idea of briefly thinking about the difficult thing that you experienced or went through while also experiencing the bilateral. stimulation that we just talked about in its various forms. This allows you to integrate all of the different parts of the memory and the experience into one experience and allows you also to create a personal narrative about your own function in the memory or the trauma that happened.

So what I always like to talk about when I talk about EMDR is I cannot change what happened, right? I, I am not going in there and adjusting or changing any memories. What’s most important to me is what you believe about yourself related to this trauma. We call that the negative cognition and the positive cognition, right?

So that’s the language we use to talk about what’s the negative belief that developed after this trauma happened to you. And Amber, I don’t, I don’t, Most commonly actually a client who I just saw yesterday was like, well, this is all I’m helpless. I’m powerless and she was like, that’s all it is. We’re just going to end up doing that one eight times.

And I was like, you know what? I want to tell you that’s probably the most common negative cognition.

Amber: Yes, I agree.

Gina: Everyone is powerless. “I’m helpless.” Or “I don’t have control.” And I’m here to process all 18 versions of that, right? Because in life that happened so much. and so I said, my, like my top three are probably “I’m powerless,” “I should have done something” and “I wasn’t in control” or “I’m not in control.”

 Everybody has versions of those traumas that they get stuck in. and so that’s really the piece that I want to talk to people about is that EMDR can change the way you think about yourself through that trauma that you lived through.

Amber: Yeah. And just speaking off of what Gina said, a way that I also explain it, cause it’s a lot of fancy-dancy terms is, you know, in REM sleep, when we’re sleeping really heavily, our eyes are darting back and forth in our, in our, when we have our eyes closed and stuff.

And oftentimes in REM sleep, we’re processing things like trauma and stuff like that. A way that I prep clients is sometimes when we do talk about heavy things, I’m just like, Hey, just so you know, you might have nightmares about this. You might have dreams about this. You might beat the crap of a person in your dream.

You might get something really clarifying and stuff like that too. And I think that’s important in describing EMDR is again, REM sleep, your eyes are darting back and forth. So your brain is processing that and using the bilateral of your eyes. And so it might help you again, brains are weird when you’re sleeping, The whole thing is weird.

So again, as you’re processing, it might not make complete sense, but you’re still processing as you’re sleeping. So I think of that as a way of like explaining EMDR of while you’re sleeping, your eyes are turning back and forth, you’re processing things. And, you know, like if you beat the crap out of somebody, I’ve had that dream before with my trauma.

What does that mean? I’m trying to get control of this person. I’m trying to, feel like I can communicate my needs and my wants and feel powerful. And I think that’s also a great way to explain that of like, okay, back to what Gina was saying is I feel so hopeless. I feel so powerless. I feel lack of control.

Okay. So what did your nightmare or your dream say about all that? so I think that’s a kind of like a smaller version of explaining all the things

Miranda: It’s kind of like how your brain is already doing this naturally while you’re sleeping and so you are mimicking that and almost forcing it to start to process some of those things by thinking about it.

Gina: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Amber brought up such a good point about the dreaming thing because, when we’re sleeping and we’re downloading our day, right? We’re processing through everything that happens. Some of it’s important. Some of it’s not so much, but the stuff that gets stuck, we end up having those dreams over and over and over again about it until we can work through it.

And that is so much. mimicking the EMDR experience. Not exactly the same, but very, very similar.

Amber: Yes. I think sometimes too, like, of course we have like the cliche of like, maybe go for a walk just to get your mind off of stuff. But actually when you’re taking a walk, the left, right, left, right of your legs also stimulates the bilateral.

So that’s why sometimes too, people find taking a walk really healing in addition to all the nature stuff, stuff like that. But yeah,

Gina: Such a good point. Yeah. The walk and talk. You know when you go for a walk with your friend around the lake and you’re like, Oh my gosh, I feel so much better. Well, that’s because you just talked through all these difficult issues and these things, and you’re moving your body and doing the bilateral. It is an informal version of EMDR, just like running, you know, running would also do that. Hiking would also do that. Like, I always feel like I, you know, went through a therapy session when I go for a walk with my girlfriend.

Miranda: That’s fascinating. Oh my gosh. I’ve never connected that before.

EMDR with Children and Informal Techniques

Amber: Yeah. So, kind of again with informal stuff too. If I have a lot of kiddos on my caseload and they don’t sit with this tapping all that stuff.

They say: “Nope. Absolutely not.” So I’ve used like a drum again, left, right, left, right. Even passing a ball is great for kids, because again, you’re getting the stimulation of left, right, left, right, and stuff like that. So there’s a lot of informal ways that you can actually imitate that, especially with kiddos who can’t sit very still.

Gina: I’m so excited, Amber, that you do EMDR with kids because it’s so needed and there’s not enough people doing it. And I would say I have tucked those little buzzies in their pockets. And they play. Or I tuck those little buzzies in their shoes when we are like running around and they’re playing, you know, house with something like there are ways to build it in so that they can still be mobile and you know, kids are busy, like they’re not going to sit for this.

Anyways, I love that you brought that up that this is not someplace where you just have to sit on a couch and do this. This is something that can move with you too. And now they have wireless buzzies. A lot of people here, even at our office in Mendota have wireless ones. With some you can control it from your phone and they can like be in their pockets or be behind their knees or like wherever they feel good for the person, for the client.That’s really what matters.

Miranda: Absolutely. This is fascinating. Ok, so I know enough about EMDR to know that you don’t just like dive right into EMDR either. There’s somewhat of like a process where you talk about like a safe space so walk me through that.

Starting EMDR Therapy: Safe Spaces and Containers

Gina: Amber, you just went, you’re going to be fresh on all this.

Amber: Okay, ready? Let’s go do all these things. You have to get a background of course, of like, what are we working on? Let’s go through your history. The initial intake session, is typical. Then after that when you’re preparing to actually do EMDR, you have to find that safe space.

There is this idea of a container and a safe space. So the container is, I like to think of something that you can put something away and then you don’t have to visit it until the next time you’re in therapy. I’ve seen people use, Mason jars, pirate chest, mine was Spongebob’s pineapple house.

It should be something that you can lock away and, like, have, like, a physical, like, again, a lock. It can be physical or it can be imaginary. With kids, again, I like to do the, physical thing because they can keep it and we can write little notes of like, what did we talk about today and stuff it in there.

As for adults, for the most part, they can do imaginary containers, but hey, for all means, you can do a physical one too. Like, you could do a physical mason jar, something that you can close and maybe you can keep it with your therapist for a time being. But it can be imaginary too of like, a pirate chest or whatever– something that can close and that you can put away.

So that’s a container part. So as you’re going through your trauma and stuff, it can be hard to leave therapy and leave the stuff at the door. So having that imaginary locking key or whatever it is helps you focus on, okay, I’ve said what I said, this is in therapy. It’s safe. safe. It’s closed. I don’t need to worry about it anymore in my day to day life.

As for the safe place, again, remember that your body is going through the fight or flight thing, even as we’re introducing our trauma to our therapist. So having a safe space, I think in general with EMDR and all, all therapy of having a safe place is very smart. So, that can be somewhere that you’ve experienced before, that can be an imaginary thing, some people find that it’s, in nature and stuff like that, again, somewhere that they visited before, like maybe with Gina, that’d be like a place that she hiked.

That’s a way for you to revisit when you’re feeling a little bit escalated and stuff like that. Okay. My safe place was like a little cabin in the woods with lots and lots of animals and with waterfalls in the back. That’s an imaginary place that’s calming for me. So I know that when I need to visit my safe space, I can visualize there, put myself there.

I feel myself petting all the animals and hearing the waterfall and stuff like that. It calms down my nervous system. So as again, as you’re having to revisit trauma and stuff like that, you have these spaces that you can end the session session in, that you can put stuff away, feel calm, relax.

Miranda: So as a therapist, when you start doing EMDR with a client, you’ll do some like informed consent, you’ll explain that this is what this process is going to look like before we actually start processing. We’re going to talk about a container and safe place or safe space.

And is that like a visualization that you’re guiding them through or something that, or is it just something that you’re kind of introducing and then maybe like the next session you’ll start doing EMDR? Like what is the time frame even look like for this?

Gina: So there’s eight phases of EMDR. The first session is like pre phase one.

It’s really important to realize that. I’ve had a lot of clients come to me who are like, my therapist and I just jumped in to EMDR right away, and I go, what? What?

Informed Consent and Client Autonomy in EMDR

Gina: Miranda, you brought up informed consent. I really want to speak to that for a moment because something that I always, always say in my first EMDR, like meeting the client session is it will get worse before it gets better.

You’re not going to walk out of here and your depression is going to be gone, or you’re going to feel like a million bucks. We’re going to have to trudge through some mud sometimes. I’m going to do my very best to help you to contain it when you leave so that it doesn’t affect other areas of your life, but you will, you can often see a flare up of symptoms, right?

And keep in mind that after an EMDR session, people are tired. Their brain just ran a marathon in 45 minutes, right? So they’re running through all these traumas and thinking about all this stuff, and then we’ve got to wrap it up, and they’ve got to go back to their life. So it’s really important to talk about this.

You’re not going to feel amazing the second session, the third session. This will take time. and that is a really important of informed consent that I really wanted to make sure that we talked about.

Miranda: So what happens if a client is starting the EMDR process, they’ve done some reprocessing and then they’re like, this is too much. Like can they just end? What happens?

Amber: Well, everyone’s entitled to their own type of modality. It might be that, like once we start doing all the tapping and all that stuff, the bilateral, and they might realize too, like it’s too much or feel a little bit cringy doing this.

Everyone’s entitled to find their modality and find a therapist that they enjoy and that they relate to. So it’s totally okay if they get through some stuff and they’re like, yeah, I don’t really like this.

Okay. We can stop. If you need someone else, like if you’re specifically EMDR only again, transferring is totally fine. A client has every right to change whatever they’re doing.

Gina: And we have a consult group here in Mendota Heights just because we have so many providers in Ellie Minnesota that are EMDR trained.

I think we have 24 or 25. So sometimes we all meet together and a common theme is, “We started EMDR and we stopped because the client wants to talk about something else right now.” That’s really, really, really normal because we are touching on hard things, right? That have existed for a very long time. And we’re trying to switch up the homeostasis that this client has been living in.

And that can be very uncomfortable. And so we have lots of clients who are like, “this is too much. This isn’t the right time. I’d like to take a step back.” And I want to honor that. We’re never going to make somebody do EMDR, right?

EMDR is not just EMDR therapy, it’s talk therapy and other things all mixed up into that. because, you know, healing is not a straight line.

Using EMDR for PTSD and Trauma

Miranda: One thing that’s really interesting to me is, and Gina, you’re the one that told me this, but EMDR does not require a complete retelling of your trauma.

Like they don’t need to say it out loud. And I think that some clients really struggle with certain types of therapies that require a complete retelling of their trauma. Why is EMDR different and what can they do instead of talking about their trauma?

Gina: So some people with trauma want to talk and process it out loud and I’m here for that, right? And sometimes they want to talk and process too much, and they want to switch into their intellectual prefrontal cortex brain. And I go, “Ooh, you’re talking too much. Can you just say a sentence about what you experienced and then we can go back in, right?”

And that’s because it makes us more comfortable—to intellectualize it and I explain what’s happening. I can use words. There’s some distance with words from the trauma, but I’m way more interested in how you feel and what’s living in your body.

Miranda: So like going back to a different podcast episode that we’ve did where we talked about the whole brain child, does that mean that when you are doing EMDR, you’re almost like trying to live within the right side of the brain– the emotional side and kind of like not necessarily.

Gina: Yes, exactly.

EMDR Techniques and Phases

Gina: So when you’re in the phase that you’re about to start reprocessing and I have this like worksheet that I have in front of me and I go, “okay, so we’re going to think about the image that is the, the most distressing part of the memory.”

We’re going to think about the negative cognition, which in this example we’ll say is “I’m helpless.” And then we’re going to remember the feeling that you have. Chest pressure is honestly probably the most common one that I hear. Either that or racing hard or sweaty palms or tight muscles. So you’re looking to highlight those three things as you go back into the memory: the cognition, the feeling, and distressing part of the memory.

You need to light up those three parts of the brain. When people get stuck in EMDR and don’t know what to say or don’t know what to do, I go back to how are you feeling and how does your body feel? Because those are the things we’re most separated from. And we feel more comfortable just talking, right?

Miranda: But when you ask those questions, are you asking about how they felt in that trauma or how they’re feeling in this moment in your office?

Gina: In this moment, thinking about that trauma. That’s what I’m asking.

Amber: Yeah. Got it. Yeah. And just to add a little bit onto that too, there are different types of EMDR.

We’re working from the present to the past. and then we’re also dealing with the present right now. So another thing that people are weary of again, is like, I don’t want to talk about my childhood. I don’t want to talk about my mom. I don’t want to talk about my dad. I don’t want to talk about my caregiver.

Nope. Nothing about that. So there’s other ways in EMDR that you can ignore that. So one kind of EMDR—restricted–  doesn’t go into the childhood.

Gina: She’s talking about the AIP, which is the adaptive information processing. It’s the foundation of EMDR. It’s the idea that the memory systems incorporate new memories into old ones as we experience them. And so that’s just a part of the framework of, of EMDR. Yeah.

Miranda: Stop it– So if I’m like thinking about the movie Inside Out and how, like, they have the, the memory world, you guys have both watched this movie, right? Of course.

Amber: We’re therapists. Of course we watch Inside Out.

Miranda: Yes. Exactly. But it’s like in that movie, they have the memory bank where they have all of the rows of like the, the memories that are stored. And then every once in a while they will like have that big hose where they’re sucking up the memories to be recycled.

It’s almost like what you’re talking about where those memories just get recycled into new ones.

Gina: Yes, exactly. Yes, yes, And traumatic memories are processed differently. Right? Because of the overwhelming effects and the overwhelming trauma that we’re experiencing. Our brain is not calm when a trauma happens, right?

So, it’s stored differently and that AIP model helps us to understand that.

Miranda: Okay. I just thought of another question when you said that. Can you do EMDR for, like, pre-verbal traumas?

Gina: Yes. Yeah, there is pre-verbal EMDR.

Miranda: How would that, how would that even work?

Gina: It’s much more, it can be much more based on feelings and body sensations. And there’s a whole, pre-verbal, protocol that you need to use and have to go through before you would offer that to anybody.

Miranda: Okay, so is EMDR only good for trauma?

Gina: Nope.

Miranda: What are some other diagnoses that you would use EMDR for?

Amber: All.

Miranda: Ok, say more, Amber.

Amber: Anything honestly, because I’m thinking about generalized anxiety disorder, everything like I’m scared to do ____. I’m nervous about ____. Are people judging me? Why are you worried about people judging me? You can break down that thought of where that thought came from.

For example– Where did that judgment come from? Is it because somebody judged you for how you drank your coffee in a coffee shop or you believe that they were judging you. That’s a small or minimal example, but you’re having this assumption about yourself, and with EMDR you can explore where did that come from and how we can dive into that.

Borderline is another good one. Why are you having these attachments? Where did that come from? What are the thoughts about these things? anything, anything EMDR.

Gina: Yeah, there’s attachment focused EMDR, with the idea of early childhood neglect and not getting what you needed from your parents and being able to reparent yourself through EMDR.

I’ve used EMDR with a lovely seven year old who struggles with being around people who are sick and a strong fear of vomiting. And she’s doing such great work, at being able to build that tolerance and understand that just because somebody’s sick, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to get sick, or that they’re going to throw up.

So yes, anything with a belief that isn’t serving you can probably be worked on with EMDR.

Miranda: Other parts of EMDR that you like or that you are like, “Oh, we haven’t talked about this aspect of EMDR yet.”

Gina: I think it’s important to talk about the eight phases. The main ones that often get talked about are the prep, right?

The resourcing, which is the, the container and the safe place. and then the reprocessing part, which is really like the meat of what we’re doing. Then there’s also, we do a body check after that. Like, where is this stuff living in you? All of these things, what we’re talking about as far as the memory, the feeling, and the body sensation, they’re all tied together.

And then after we do the reprocessing, after we get to a place where you believe the positive cognition, then we move forward. And in the future you can always go back if you need to reprocess something.

Miranda: How long does EMDR typically take?

Gina: That’s a good question. I mean, it’s really, I don’t know, Amber, I’m curious what you would say.

Amber: Honestly, the answer to all these things is depends on the person. but typically, typically I would say at least, like, maybe, you 12 to 15 sessions, and that’s maybe even being generous again.

And let’s imagine you’re working with this client and you want to make sure that they have enough time to change the negative cognition to a positive cognition. Validity of cognition. So at the end of EMDR a person should be likely to believe that positive cognition about themselves. So let’s say if you’re working with the negative cognition of “I am not in control” then the positive cognition would be “I am in control when I can be.” You don’t want it to be “I am in control” because there is some instances where you’re not in control and that’s okay.

So by the end of EMDR, we want that to be true, which would be a score of seven. So that person should be ending EMDR. It might not get to a seven and that’s okay too, but we want it to increase over time. Bottomline is that we  want our clients to associate with the more positive cognition of “I believe that I can be in control when I can be.”

Gina: And we have Protector Overwatch in Minnesota, where we serve, those that are police officers, firefighters, EMT, first responders, military personnel. And I’ve worked with a few of them on single incident traumas. I’d say with a well resourced person, they can be done in five sessions. But if there’s a bunch of other childhood trauma or a lifetime on a very stressful job where they see trauma after trauma after trauma, then that’s going to take more time.

I think the longer you haven’t talked about the trauma or the longer you’ve experienced it, prolonged chronic trauma, it can take longer to then process it through EMDR. It just depends on the person and the readiness of the person as well.

Training and Certification Process for EMDR

Miranda: If you’re a therapist listening to or reading this, they might be asking, how do I get trained in this? Is it something that I need to do like years of work towards being certified before I can start practicing this? What does this look like?

Gina: Amber just went through it. So I’d love to hear.

Amber: Yeah. So I did my training through EMDR and from there you can do it in the middle of the week or on the weekend.

I did mine on the weekend with George Tab and a hundred percent recommend. It was a three day course I did completely virtual. I believe you get the option to do it in person as well. There are so many of options, but EMDR consulting is the one that I’ve heard the most. If you just google EMDR certification and make sure that you get your CEUs and stuff like that.

You can be certified, and it does not take years. Right now, being that I just finished my trainings, I have a year to get some consultation and after that, I would just have to revisit and talk to the coaches there.

Miranda: But you’re practicing EMDR now, so it’s like you go through the training, you start practicing it,      you’re kind of doing something similar to supervision is what it sounds like, and then, and then at the end of a year, you’re like, all right, I can now call myself certified or what, at what point?

Amber: You have to do a bunch of, courses, which again, I finished all that. I unfortunately have to wait until I’m fully licensed to, to get my certification.

There’s supervision that you need to complete. There’s so many hours that you have to also do EMDR too. Then after that, and again, you have to be fully licensed. to get your full certification. I might be missing some things, Gina.

Gina: No, I think the, Amber’s got it. there’s, they usually, it usually happens in two parts.

Yeah. So sometimes I haven’t ever seen it done all at one time because that would be a ton of information, but usually it’s one long weekend of like 24 to 30 CEUs. And then part two is 24. We don’t want them to be super separated, because otherwise you’ll forget the material. mine, I was working at a lovely non-profit where they offered EMDR at about half the price. I wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise, right?

Miranda: Because how much is it to do all of this? How much is the training?

Gina: I think Amber and I are going to say a range. Yes. Anywhere between fourteen and seventeen hundred dollars usually. Split between the two weekends and hopefully paid in a payment plan.

Miranda: Yeah, I mean, that’s really cheaper than somatic experiencing, cheaper than a lot of like cheaper than a lot of modalities out there.

Gina: It is more affordable than some of the trainings out there.

Miranda: Well and gosh, if you’re ending it with so many CEU hours, it’s probably worth it.

Gina: Right, and like Amber was talking about, after you finished part one, part two, they want you to be practicing and working with clients after part one, and they want to see you again for part two, and they want you to be doing the work after that, you need 10 hours of group consultation.

And they’ll set you up with that or advise you or give you options of who you could do the 10 hours with. Once that’s done, you can submit that and become certified. Got it. So you can be called “EMDR trained” if you completed it. If you want to do certification, you have to go through MDREA and send all those materials in and then pay like a yearly fee to continue to be certified.

And then from there, you can become a consultant in training, a consultant, and then a trainer. And there are steps for that along the way that include even getting like letters of recommendation. And then I think to actually work to being a consultant in training, you have to have like 200 clients and at least a certain amount of hours, that you’ve done EMDR.

I think it’s important to have those gatekeeping measures because it needs to be done in a certain way to be effective. In their own practice though, therapists have flexibility. And I think, clinicians who have been doing it for a long time, they have their own ways, right?

Like it all comes back to the bilateral, but they develop their own interesting ways of doing it too that are, can be very effective.

Miranda: okay. I have a question. So, for my personal situation, like, I don’t see, I don’t see a full time caseload of clients. So I don’t know if it would be worth it to, to actually become certified and pay the extra cost and supervision.

Could I just do EMDR training and then, like, start practicing at that point and not ever get fully certified?

Gina: I’ve been doing it for 12 years and I’m EMDR trained. I am not certified.

Because I don’t necessarily see the cost benefit for becoming certified and paying the fee to be an MDREA member and then doing all of that work. I’d like to be a consultant someday though, so I’m probably going to do like the steps for that because I want to train eventually, but no, I’m still trained in the EMDR.

For some people that certification is super important and you do get put onto like Emdrea’s list of certified therapists, which I think is, there’s a lot of benefit in that too.

Regardless, you don’t have to figure that out right away. And it wasn’t within my budget to do that right after I’d gotten trained anyway.

Final Thoughts on EMDR

Miranda: Well, this has been super helpful. Any other last thoughts or things that we feel like we’re missing about EMDR?

Amber: I have been seeing a lot of people inquiring about EMDR. So I think it is one of the up and coming kind of modalities, kind of the buzzword kind of thing.

I think it’s a good investment to get this training. Because are people going to be wanting it too and we’re getting a lot of inquiries for EMDR. So I think it is worth it, especially as that becomes more well known in society today.

Miranda: That’s fascinating to see how clients have become more aware of these modalities. The book, “The Body Keeps the Score” has gotten so popular, even just like non clinicians with people who are just trying to understand themselves, and that book talks about EMDR. I’ve had probably two or three different clients who have read that book and then come to me and been like, I think EMDR would be really helpful.

Gina: Yeah. My first session is always, how did you hear about EMDR? Yeah. Tell me what you know about EMDR. Like give me an idea. And it’s, “my sister did it” or “My best friend did it”–  very, very much word of mouth. They found it super helpful. It changed their life.

And then they get to tell them about their experience and what they saw change in their life. And they want, they want that for themselves as well.

When I was a fresh newbie and was working with people with lots of trauma, I was like, “OMG, how am I going to help them?” Like I had CBT and I had the foundational knowledge of what I learned out of school, but I was like, “I’m going to need something else to be effective here.” And you know, I was considering TF-CBT and brain spotting and ART. There’s so many options now and all of them are worthwhile.

And EMDR was the one that I was drawn to because I felt like it could help the largest group of people and it could be used with adults and kids.

Miranda: Awesome. Well, thank you both so much for joining and we’ll have to have you back again sometime.

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About the author

Miranda Barker headshot

Miranda Barker, MSW, LICSW

Director of Content and Production

Miranda specializes in working with people who have been touched by adoption or foster care (birth parents, adoptees, kids in foster care, etc). She enjoys working with people of all ages. Prior to joining Ellie, Miranda spent several years in the non-profit adoption field and then as a child protection investigator and case… Read more