By the time a client shows up in my office for EMDR, they’re usually pretty experienced with traditional talk therapy. Curious about trying something new, “I heard this could help,” is the phrase I hear most often. But even with an eagerness to do the work, the non-conventional approach of EMDR therapy can feel foreign to both therapy newcomers and the most “seasoned” clients alike.
When I was first introduced to this life-changing approach to healing the past, I remember my supervisor comparing the process to entering a room in a house, and being open to which other rooms might also need to be entered during the journey. Learn More About EMDR
From there, my metaphor-loving-mind quickly made the connection that clearing up the pains of our past is a lot like tidying up the most dreaded, catch-all, junk room in the house. No, you don’t have one? I’m sure you know someone who does…
4 Unexpected Ways EMDR Therapy Mirrors Tidying Up
- We decide on a starting place.
Should we start in the living room or the guest room? The room you’ve been wishing to clear out forever, or the smallest closet first? Are there many ‘disaster’ rooms, or is the rest of the house in pretty good shape? One of the first steps in the EMDR process is finding your starting point…your therapist will help guide you in choosing which memory to target first based on your personal history.
- Prepare for the unexpected.
“Whoa, I forgot all about this old thing! How did it even get in here?!” This phenomenon is common in both clearing out clutter and reprocessing our past experiences. Especially with trauma narratives, we may have gone over the story so many times in our minds already. It can come as a big surprise then, when a seemingly “random” memory or something we thought had been resolved pops in during EMDR reprocessing but rest assured this is very often part of the clearing out process.
- It might get worse before it gets better.
With a plan and protocols in place to process and “organize” the emotional baggage of the past, sometimes the difficulty of the deep work can be initially overlooked. “I’m just ready to move past this,” is a wonderful starting point, but it’s often when we are knee deep in the mess that we may begin to feel overwhelmed or ready to throw in the towel. When you’ve pulled everything out of the closet, the more challenging task is to figure out where it belongs in the story of your life. Here is where your therapist can support you in feeling grounded through the process and set supportive expectations.
- A More Sustainable Future.
Once you’ve turned the corner, the new system begins to reveal itself. Our brains begin to integrate the past and the “toss, keep, re-purpose” cycle that felt so overwhelming in the messy middle now feels something more like clarity. But the work doesn’t end here. Just like decluttering and organizing our homes, the real success is in a more sustainable future. Your EMDR therapist will work with you here on how these new integrations of past trauma will show up in your life going forward.
And that, my friends, is the life-changing magic of EMDR.
About the Author:
Sarah A. Temel is a New Jersey Licensed Professional Counselor providing counseling for teens and adults at Mindful Soul Center for Wellbeing. She earned her Master’s degree in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania. Trained in both Internal Family Systems (IFS) and EMDR Therapy, she believes in both creating a strong foundation in the present and guiding her clients towards healing more deeply rooted patterns of struggle. Sarah has a particular passion in providing counseling to tween and teen girls, young adult women and college students, as well as Empaths, Healers and other Helping Professionals, and Highly Sensitive People (HSP), of all ages.