People come to me all the time with questions about what to expect after EMDR therapy. Some people think it sounds a little too good to be true, while others worry about the possibility of side effects. A little caution is perfectly natural, but EMDR therapy is a well-tested, pharmacologically safe form of therapy that relies on the natural healing capacities of the human body.
With that in mind, EMDR therapy can be a little bit like going to the gym. You’re giving your body, your brain, and your emotional self a workout! That process can be uncomfortable at times, and like going to the gym, there’s often a cooldown period where we need to let those muscles knit themselves back together and grow stronger.
In today’s article, we’ll dig into what most people can expect to feel after EMDR therapy.
Everyone responds to EMDR therapy differently, but most people report feeling a mixture of lightness and exhaustion. Think of it as a runner’s high or that post-workout euphoria people sometimes talk about. In the days immediately following an EMDR session, people might expect a few days of light-headedness as their brain gets busy forging new neural pathways.
After EMDR therapy, many people report feeling more connected to their body. In response to past trauma, many people disconnect from their bodies in ways they aren’t even aware of. After an EMDR session, it’s common for people to report being more aware of their environment. Your sense of taste and smell may seem a little sharper, among others.
Changes in Memory
Any time we’re digging into the past we’re bound to come across memories we haven’t visited in a long time. EMDR therapy works by using bilateral stimulation to make those memories easier to access and allowing them to be integrated and reorganized in our memory system. What that means in practice is that after an EMDR session, many people find themselves looking back on old memories and remembering more details.
At the same time, those memories may seem more emotionally distant. Traumatic memories are by their very nature both formative and emotionally powerful. They’re unconscious memories that can be triggered by our senses without us even realizing it. EMDR therapy allows us to access those memories in a more conscious, directed way. This means that we’re accessing them without our fight-or-flight state being triggered. What used to make us angry, sad, or scared becomes something we can look at objectively from a safe distance and process.
Most people report changes in their mood after EMDR therapy. More of our emotional responses are driven by traumatic memories than we realize, and EMDR therapy helps us integrate those memories so that we can control those emotional responses. Many of my clients have marveled over how much calmer and relaxed they feel even in situations that might have made them blow their top a week before.
EMDR is an action-oriented, results-driven form of therapy. Yes, it incorporates talk therapy, but the focus is getting results in a reasonable timeframe. While I caution clients not to expect results overnight, most people quickly experience an ongoing reduction in their symptoms.
A crucial part of EMDR therapy is client and therapist working together to form a roadmap for progress. EMDR allows us to zero in on someone’s issues with anxiety, creative blocks, flashbacks, or addiction. We follow those symptoms back to the originating traumatic memories and reprocess them together.
It’s totally natural to be both curious and nervous about starting a new form of therapy. I would love to talk with you and hear more about the issues you’re facing in your daily life. EMDR therapy is a safe way to help you put the past behind you. Reach out today to find out if EMDR is right for you.