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Alex7777 April 18th, 2008 01:28 PM

emdr:nothing's happening

I'd like to have some statements from people who are currently implied in an emdr sessions in order to share experiences.
Actually, I had 2 sessions and nothing happened I'm afraid!
I'd like to know what I'm supposed to feel, what could show me that it works!
For example, if someone felt the same as me at the start and noticed an improvement afterwards, what did he or she feel during the sessions?

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!

Read you soon, bye!

Sandra Paulsen April 20th, 2008 11:06 AM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening
So far no clients have answered, so I'll comment. I'm both someone who provides EMDR treatment and has received it, so I have some understanding of the process and the felt sense of it.

It depends what the target it, and how symptomatic one is. If one has a trauma, and is able to allow that material to come up in processing, one is likely to have rather impactful experience during the processing, whether cognitive, emotional, bodily sensation, or some combination. If there isn't much of a trauma history,or if the memory of trauma is completely blocked, there may not be much of a response during the processing.

If one is using EMDR to process something beside a trauma, the felt sense may be not very strong. There may or may not be progress with the symptoms. There is no controlled research on the use of EMDR with non-trauma conditions, although many of us use it successfully that way.

There is another thing, and that involves the client understanding the instructions. That can be an issue when English is a second language, and the therapist doesn't speak the client's first language. The instructions say, "there are no supposed to's in this work, your job is to just allow whatever comes up to come up, without judgement." Sometimes people try effortfully to think or concentrate on something, in order to get an outcome they believe is needed. Rather, if we just notice what comes up, as if we were looking at scenery out of a train window, or as if we were watching tv, then no effort is necessary. Whatever needs to come up will come up.

If the target is not one that EMDR can help with, then nothing much would happen.

let's see if others talk about their experience.

dmuldawer April 23rd, 2008 11:18 PM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening
What I most noticed after my first EMDR session was incredible fatigue, followed by vivid dreams.

Sometimes I'd feel worse for a few days, then feel a sense of strength and an ability to handle things that had been previously missing.

I've never had a session with nothing, but I expect that people react differently and there may still be effects.

Good luck!


anthrotech October 25th, 2008 01:42 PM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening

I am a client who has gone through EMDR. I spent several months preparing for it by learning about going to my safe place and other adaptive psychological tools. My therapist felt it was important to go through preliminary training and many evaluations and also my emotional state was all over the place and she did not feel comfortable taking me through EMDR.

Then this summer, we went through five EMDR sessions. I did A LOT of processing between sessions. The sessions took place over a period of eight weeks, some times taking a week off. By the end and now, six weeks after my last EMDR session, I have limited anxiety attacks and when I do I am able to work through them by relating them back to something that happened in my past or go to my safe place.

Just a little background, I have PTSD due to years of emotional abuse from my biological parents who divorced when I was three years old, and other family members. Prior to EMDR, I was triggered by many things from abusive employers to friends, and most currently my girlfriend who I've been dating since May 2007. The combination of an unhealthy work environment and having a girlfriend who triggers me a lot since she tends to act like my mother in terms of being emotionally unavailable, not validating and discounting my emotions, etc. I had anxiety in other areas of my life, even mundane activities like driving past a cop or being followed by a cop. One negative feeling that I've overcome is "I am doing something wrong." This over rode many aspects of my life. I went to great lengths to the point of negating my needs to please others to make sure that I was not doing things wrong. At work, any time I was criticized I went into this emotional spiral of negativity where I thought I was always doing something wrong.

But through EMDR, I've come to realize that my girlfriend is NOT my mother and that while she triggers negative emotions from my past, I am in much more control of my emotions and I can work through my anxiety in a more healthy manner.

In terms of my girlfriend, she has worked on herself as well and realizes that she has not been a good partner to me. She is making a lot of effort to ensure me that she is not abandoning me and also encourages and supports my feelings, and validates my emotions. It may be a combination of EMDR that helped me to overcome my negative thought process and also her realizing what she was doing and affirmed the need to be a better partner for herself and me.

With regards to EMDR, as my therapist told me, EMDR does not work for everyone. Some people don't feel any changes, others like myself have a major mind shift, and for others, it makes things worse for them, because they cannot detach from the past and they continue to relive stressful locked emotional periods from their past.

For me, standard psychotherapy was not helping me to improve in the time frame that I wanted. That is why my therapist suggested using EMDR and it has rapidly helped me to unlock emotions from my past, experience them, and then move on.

Six weeks after EMDR and it is still working. Some examples are:

1) My friend was talking about correcting his daughter not to chew on her pacifier and they have abruptly taken it away from her. This reminded me right away about my Mom who tried correcting me with sucking my thumb. I remembered one time when I was five years old staying with her sister, my Aunt, and she called and yelled in the phone,"What did mommy tell you. STOP SUCKING YOUR THUMB!" I did not feel an emotional charge from this memory, there was no anxiety, my friend's experience just brought back that memory.

2) With my girlfriend, I've taken many things she tells much less personally and our relationship feels like it was before I took this awful job that I started in January and have recently resigned and accepted a new wonderful job.

3) My mom and I have had NC (no contact) since early April this year. I have chosen to not communicate with her because I've had issues with blending our past into the present and getting angry with her. Recently, she went into the hospital. My family, including a cousin who moved to Colorado in August, and my stepdad subtly tried to guilt me in terms of pointing the finger at me for her hospitalization since I emailed her a strong letter a couple weeks before she was hospitalized. I refused to give into guilt since guilt was another mechanism my Mom used to try to "fix" me as a child. I did support my Mom by calling and leaving messages and also emailing her, but reinforcing my boundaries.

I hope this helps.

Sandra Paulsen October 26th, 2008 12:09 PM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening
The following is a post-script to my original reply to the query about "nothing happening."

By all means let's have other people respond, and I'll offer a few thoughts (since that's my job here).

First thing is that we don't have nearly enough information to comment or compare or say what went wrong, and we don't do that here anyway, so I'll just offer a few possible ideas:

1) the targeted memory may not be related to the symptoms, or was otherwise poorly chosen

2) the symptoms may not be amenable to EMDR (not everything is)

3) the negative and positive cognitions may not have been well chosen or may have been skipped altogether (as a few clinicians think they can be skipped, tho that's not emdr if they are skipped).

4) there may have been one or more blocking beliefs in the way that weren't identified and untangled, so that the emdr could only loop

5) there may have been a false expectation of an extreme emotional response, which doesn't always happen by any means

6) there may have been a change, but it is so organic that the person doesn't register it to be a result of EMDR. I've heard before, someone says, "I don't think the EMDR is working, Doc, by the way, I've left my job, getting back with my wife, and going back to college."

7) the processing may have been incomplete. If the target is well chosen but large, it may take numerous sessions to get resolution

8) the method may not have been optimal. some people do better with eye movements, some with tactile or auditory stimulation. To be EMDR, it has to be one of those forms of bilateral stimulation.

9) there may have been another problem with the correct use of the standard protocol, e.g., processing to the end of each channel, then going back to target, until SUD equals zero and VOC equals 7 (SUD means subjective units of disturbance, and VOC means validity of cognition, referring to the desired positive self statement from the beginning of the target workup).

10) if screening for dissociation is skipped for a highly dissociative person, then a protective part of self will just shut down the processing, with a "so there!" attitude.

So there are a few thoughts,hardly a complete list. maybe some others will speak up about their experiences with apparently having "nothing happen."

anthrotech October 27th, 2008 12:19 AM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening

Hi there.

I am confused. Was your reply directed towards me? I thought I was being helpful. :D

I guess I may have missed the mark on the requested info, I do realize that I did not provide specifics on how I felt during those EMDR sessions...okay, well here it goes...

1) Session 1: Felt really good...a huge weight had been lifted for me. I remember being in a store with friends and joking out loudly.

2) Session 2: Felt absolutely exhausted.

3) Session 3: Felt tired and bewildered.

4) Session 4: Felt relieved.

5) Session 5: Felt relieved.

During most of the sessions, I cried, ranted, raged, etc. It was an emotional roller coaster.

Sandra, again, I am confused...I thought I was being helpful, but after reading your reply three times, I can't help feel that you are being critical of me? Why? Are you a practitioner/therapist? If so, I would think that your reply would be less judgmental.

Sandra Paulsen October 27th, 2008 10:54 AM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening
No, sorry about the confusion, I wasn't even responding to your post at all when I wrote my points about what may have gone wrong. I was responding to the original post in a hurry, without noticing that your post was more recent. I apologize for giving the impression that I was responding to yours, and would certainly never be critical of any client on an open forum.

Thanks for sharing your experience, which is precisely what he was asking for, since to him, "nothing's happening." Which might be true for him and clearly wasn't true for you.

Yes I'm a senior EMDR practitioner, and it's my job to moderate this forum on behalf of Francine Shapiro, the originator of EMDR. And I do EMDR a great great deal with people, for the last 17 years, so have a sense of what kinds of things will provide a "nothing's happening" response.

I do hope that others will continue to post their experiences, whether alot happened, or whatever nothing seemed to happen, during their EMDR processing.

Warm regards to all, --Sandra

andmetoo October 29th, 2008 07:43 AM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening

I also employed EMDR in the treatment of complex PTSD. It is hard to separate what I felt with the EMDR with what I felt with remembering and mastering the memories and associated feelings. My treatment went on for years, so the theme for me is that, no matter how bad it felt at times, the EMDR generally made the feelings more managable. It was often a journey.

You haven't mentioned any background or details, but I would say that if you are trying to deal with a long term and deeply felt issue or trauma, you need to be well prepared for it. Safe places have been mentioned. It is also important to feel safe with your therapist. And if there is some disassociation, I can speak from experience. If there is a threatened part, it/he or she will make sure that you don't feel anything. The preparation for EMDR can sometimes take a long time, but without it, the EMDR just won't work.

Thistle November 1st, 2008 10:21 PM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening
I have no reactions when trying to do the standard EMDR protocol. I have a variety of dissociation, so it seems that it keeps me from getting very far in the standard protocol. I balk and get confused at the first SUDS question.

What has worked, kind of magically (to me anyway) was using EMDR to install safe places. I was very skeptical at the time, but for some reason, it worked.

When I meet with my therapist, we use the Bilateral stimulation during session and I have noticed (and hated to admit it) that my behavior after sessions is not so off the wall. So for now, until parts get more on-board with this stuff, and the depersonalization wanes a little bit, its just the buzzers or the headphones for me. Maybe when the memories are less fragmented and more believable I can try again.

Take care.

Sandra Paulsen November 2nd, 2008 12:38 AM

Re: emdr:nothing's happening
Although this may or may not apply in your case, there are specific step by step protocols to apply when a client is very dissociative.

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