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EMDR Therapy, My Journey as an EMDR Therapist

There is nothing more satisfying than finding what you were meant to do with your life and having the key to unlock the door to fulfill your purpose. For years, I had been standing in front of that door with keys I believed would unlock the door but for some reason never worked.

My journey as a mental health therapist has been both satisfying and frustrating over the years in trying to guide clients through their journey of pain, healing, and resiliency. To truly understand and help another I believe we must understand and help ourselves.

I had been working with clients, mostly adults, with significant trauma histories for years. I received training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, among other modalities in search of the “perfect” key to unlock the door to healing for those asking for help. None of these modalities were “perfect”, they seemed to act as bandages or sometimes temporary relief to lifelong pain at best.

Logically these methods “should” be effective if clients put them into practice, if they could, they might see some positive outcomes. The troubling or frustrating piece would happen more times than not when a client was not able to implement these strategies. When clients were faced with common stressors they would often regress, always seeming to go back to square one. I would often hear “I know what I am supposed to think, I know what I am supposed to feel, I know what I am supposed to do, but in the moment, I can’t do it or I forget.” Other clinicians would label this as “resistance to treatment”, I never agreed to this line of thinking as I could see in their eyes how much they wanted to change and have relief from presenting symptoms. I knew there had to be something more to the process for them to be able to feel and implement change in their lives.

I started looking for evidenced based treatment modalities for adults with a history of trauma. I discovered EMDR Therapy in my search; not well known or talked about in the very conservative State of North Dakota, I had not even heard of EMDR Therapy. As I read about the modality I became excited for the first time in a long time. EMDR Therapy sounded like the key I was looking for. Training to become an EMDR Therapist was only offered out of state at this time and was costly. I put in a proposal to the agency I worked for at the time only to be turned down. Shortly after this discovery and disappointment I had made the decision to go solely into private practice and work on getting the funds together myself so that I could get trained. Less than six months into full time private practice I received a post card in the mail from the Maiberger Institute; Barb Maiberger was holding a training in EMDR Therapy just 100 miles away. I registered for the training immediately. I knew by what I had already read on EMDR Therapy that I was sold on the modality, but I had no idea until I had attended the first weekend of training what this meant. I left after that 3rd day and was SOLD. I couldn’t wait to get back to my clients, share with them what I had learned, and begin putting it into practice. I still had no idea how SOLD I was…and then it began.

EMDR Therapy was working! It made so much sense to me, I was able to communicate this information and enthusiasm to my clients and we were officially on board the EMDR Therapy train! It was working, all of it, and so quickly that I had thoughts of hesitation…was I moving too fast? was I working with too many clients with too many different issues? Thankful for Barb Maiberger’s scheduled group consultation calls between the two weekend trainings I was encouraged, coached, and reassured that I was moving in the right direction. This motivated me only more.

When I had returned for the second weekend of training I had all my clients on board, resourced, and some even had begun the work of processing their traumas. I had questions and the second weekend of training provided the answers. I took these answers back to my office, applied the information to practice and continued seeing results. AMAZING!! I knew from this point on I was an EMDR Therapist and I was never going back to “the old way” of therapy.

EMDR Therapy seemed to take the theories and techniques from Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioral, Exposure, Trauma Focused CBT, and DBT modalities with procedure, protocol, science, and Dual Attention Stimulation in a perfect and deliverable package! Suddenly clients were noticing symptoms were subsiding, their responses to stressors were changing becoming logical rather than emotional, and their relationships in general were improving. Before I knew it, I had a waiting list, word was traveling fast, clients were telling family and friends. It was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and responsibility, wanting to offer this to opportunity to as many of those in need of healing who wanted it.

I continued Individual Consultation with Barb Maiberger after the requirements of EMDR Therapy training were met, my intention to meet a goal of becoming an EMDRIA Certified EMDR Therapist. I felt like an alien in the therapy world; EMDR Therapy is “weird” and not widely accepted by cohorts in this conservative part of the country. I felt as though I needed and craved continued support on this journey, I was not disappointed. Barb Maiberger was my anchor through receiving EMDRIA Certification and talked me into working towards becoming a consultant.

I need to add a Segway at this point in my story. During the EMDR Therapy training we were able to practice the different phases on each other. We could choose if we worked on something real to us or role play as a client. I chose to work on an issue that I had been struggling with at the time, I wanted to know what my clients would be experiencing and I wanted to know if this weird stuff really worked. Showing vulnerability in front of other professionals…yuck. But there was something in me, a drive for my clients, and for myself that I was able to put that aside and “go with it”. How was I to expect my clients to participate in this weird and vulnerable work if I was not able to do it myself? I am happy I made that decision. It really was the selling point for me…even though I was already sold, so I thought! Even from those practice sessions in training I noticed change and “symptom” reduction in relation to the issue I had worked on. Barb encouraged during consultation sessions that those practicing EMDR Therapy should get their own EMDR Therapy.

I continue to work with another trained EMDR Therapist on my own healing and self-discovery. I would not be the therapist I am today without it. I am a better therapist because of it. It is crucial as an EMDR Therapist to be able to tolerate big affect, to understand and empathize with the client in their experience, and maybe at times to share some of your own EMDR Therapy experience as a “client”. This has helped in my practice with rapport and trust building, intuition, protection, self-care, and determining what is my “yuck” verses the client’s “yuck”. Our clients need to know we recognize we have our own “yuck” and that we are brave enough to do this work too…if not, why should we expect them to be??

My work and my life have improved significantly since the discovery of EMDR Therapy. I have no regrets and enjoy the celebrations that occur both in my office and in my own self-discovery and healing. I finally have the key. I am honored to share the key and the responsibility of the key with those who are ready.

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