Accelerated Therapy – How to speed up your progress with intensive EMDR
Do you ever wish that you could press fast forward in therapy and just get to the part where you start to feel better?
EMDR Intensive programs are that “fast forward” button.
Now, you may be thinking, first off – what is EMDR? and second, what is an EMDR Intensive program? If you’re new to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, you can read more details about it here, here and here.
Here’s a little background on why this “fast forward” button is necessary.
So many times I have heard clients say “I know rationally, that this isn’t true” (insert negative belief), “but I just can’t stop having this feeling” (insert distressing sensation or emotion) when thinking about a specific trauma. I often tell my clients that EMDR is the closest thing I have found to a “magic wand” as a therapist. It has the power to help our brain and our body make sense of the body sensations and automatic responses to trauma that are stuck in ways that don’t (and will never) make cognitive sense.
Over the years EMDR has transformed the way I practice from being a therapist trained in EMDR to being an EMDR specialist. I LOVE all things EMDR and am amazed over and over again when these massive changes occur in therapy. However, more recently as a therapist I found myself getting frustrated with the restrictions of the standard therapeutic hour and the way that it truncates the progress EMDR has the power to fuel.
The typical 60 minutes in session breaks down like this –
- 15-20 minutes of checking in on current stressors, life events, and how the person responded to any previous EMDR from last session
- 25 – 35 minutes of actual EMDR reprocessing & desensitization work
- 10-15 minutes of closing down incomplete targets (any trauma that we were working on that isn’t completely resolved), debriefing, and grounding the person to a calm state before the session ends
While I know that most EMDR clinicians can relate to my frustration with only having 25-35 minutes of time for the heart of the session to get the trauma work done, I also notice the frustration from my clients that they just can’t seem to make more progress as quickly as they would like to.
Of course anyone who is coping with a trauma wants to feel better faster because trauma responses are at best a nuisance and at worst absolutely debilitating. This weekly session model creates a constant cycle: past trauma is at the root of a lot of the routine stressors and issues interfering with daily life which makes also it more difficult to cope with routine stressors and makes daily functioning more challenging. The more that’s going on in the person’s daily life, the more things they need to talk about or need to work on in that 15-20 minute check in at the beginning of session. Which, often in weekly therapy turns into most of or all of the session.
This leaves less time for and often leaves the person having less bandwidth for addressing the underlying trauma that is exacerbating the present day situations. The result… both therapist and client are left frustrated at times with the slow, incremental progress. The client wants to feel better faster and the therapist wants more time to help the client feel better.
On to thinking outside of the box. Enter EMDR intensive programs.
An EMDR intensive is a designated chunk of time for focusing on specific treatment goals with EMDR. After we “open up” the past trauma in session, the brain needs to go where it needs to as it does the healing and reparative work that EMDR is facilitating. When we have a longer period of time to do this work, the brain can do it more quickly than when we have to pause due to time constraints. When more time is available, the process gains momentum. Through my work doing both standard sessions and longer intensive sessions I have seen this momentum in action. All time is not equal. The amount of progress made during 3 hours of intensive work does not equal the same amount of progress in 3 standard therapy hours.
During intensive sessions we get so much more healing work done.
As mentioned on my EMDR Intensive page research supports the effectiveness of EMDR Intensives (see links to research articles here). Unfortunately, they’re not covered by insurance (though they should be in my opinion), as insurance typically only covers sessions 30-60 minutes, and ideally they want therapists to operate within 45 minute sessions. EMDR intensive programs were not my brilliant idea, but through consultation with fellow EMDR clinicians across the country, I am one of many who believe that this is a more effective way to use EMDR therapy to provide relief to our clients faster. I invite you to make an investment in your healing and consider if an EMDR Intensive program could be just what you need to fast-forward your progress in therapy. You deserve relief. You deserve to heal. You are worthy of accelerated therapy.