How Do I Use EMDR In My Practice?

The majority of cases in which I utilize EMDR in my practice include:

  • Combat Veterans with PTSD (ie. Survivor’s Guilt)
  • Bullying, School Transitions, Divorce, Grief with Adolescents
  • Panic Attacks, OCD, Anxiety
  • Chronic Pain
  • Traumatic Sports Memories (ie. Verbal Abuse from a Coach, Injuries)
  • Peak Performance (EMDR Flow)
  • Addiction
  • Big T Trauma’s: Abandonment, verbal/physical abuse, neglect, witnessing a natural disaster, divorce, rape/sexual assault, death of a loved one, wartime experience, robbery, or a major surgery
  • Small T Trauma’s: adoption, reassignment of work, relationship difficulties, a recent move, challenging times over the holidays etc. and things more of that nature.
  • Attachment-Related Issues

Having performed over 250 individual sessions of EMDR, I feel very comfortable in guiding individuals to reprocess disturbing memories, so they are no longer stuck and have direct access to the memory being normally filed and integrated into the adaptive memory network of the brain. Guiding individuals through traumatic experiences takes compassionate coaching and encouragement in helping people “get to the other side.” I am passionate about providing people the relief they deserve, so they can move forward and live happier lives.

EMDR is the foundation of my practice. I use other psychotherapeutic modalities but I find EMDR to be the most effective for most people. It is not for everyone, however, and requires proper resourcing and resilience. It has elements of Psychodynamic Theory (ie. past disturbing memories have a negative affect on us), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (ie. Identifying triggers and the way you think affects the way you feel), Somatic Experiencing (ie. Disturbing memories carry emotions and sensations that are stored in the body) and solutions-focused therapy. (Looking ahead of how to approach a future challenging situation more effectively)

EMDR not only addresses past memories, but present triggers and future events. It is about teaching coping skills (safe place, resourcing, grounding techniques) so the individual will be able to cope with the emotions that are brought up during the session and in between sessions.

Often times, other memories that individuals weren’t consciously aware of, come up in EMDR and are desensitized and reprocessed. In other words, the target memories that an individual consciously chooses to work on, associates with another memory from the past where there may have been similar emotions, thoughts and sensations. The goal is to get back to the touchstone memory, where the root of the problem began.

EMDR is about self-discovery and letting the brain go where it wants to go to work things out. It is the opposite of exposure therapy in that it allows the brain to do just that. It differs from hypnosis in that there is a dual attention state, where the client interacts with the clinician in between sets of bilateral stimulation, as opposed to being in a “trance,” in which there could be a greater risk in getting caught in the trauma vortex. Though it is up to the clinician to provide guidance to the individual during the session, it is often better to stay out of the way and let the client work it out, unless processing becomes blocked and the clinician is required to utilize cognitive interweaves to unblock the information channel.

The great part about EMDR is that the clinician doesn’t need to know all the details of the event, which could be re-traumatizing for the individual to tell. The client just needs to focus on the worst scene of the memory (if it were a movie) and can just provide the clinician minimal information (in some cases that may want to tell everything…it is the client’s choice), so as not be re-traumatized by re-telling the disturbing memory.

While EMDR is not always the answer (as nothing is when dealing with the mind), I find it to be appropriate for the majority of my clients in some aspect. I also treat clients adjunctively, who may want to continue with their primary therapist, but find themselves a bit “stuck” in therapy.

Ryan Long, MSW, LICSW


verified by Psychology Today

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