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Do It Yourself (DIY) EMDR Therapy: Pros and Cons

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

What is EMDR?

So, you've heard about a relatively new, very safe, and effective method to treat your childhood trauma, negative self-beliefs, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc., as an adult. You have heard that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy can help you become less emotionally activated by invasive memories,

It's not hypnosis. You're in charge and fully alert and participating, guiding every session. Even better, you learn that you can pick which positive beliefs you'd rather have about yourself and the world. In the first session, you might even leave feeling like you shed 50 lbs of baggage. It's a win, win, right?

You've rolled up your sleeves and you're ready to get started!

The Pro's...

Now that you've wrapped your head around getting realize that it's hard to find a therapist who is trained in EMDR (training IS IMPORTANT), let alone one who has openings, or maybe you can save a buck with "DIY EMDR Therapy." So, we go to our buddy Youtube. You'll find tons of information on EMDR emerging everywhere because a lot of people consider it "more cost effective" to crush some targets through EMDR rather than using talk therapy like CBT or DBT to process through their issues. For some people (not everyone), they put in the work and come out of many sessions feeling a high sense of satisfaction. Why not just do it yourself? If it's Like REM Sleep, You Can do EMDR Therapy on your own, right?

The Con's...

I'm glad you asked! Now, in typical therapist-fasion I'll answer your question with a Socratic question: "Have you ever tried to cut your own hair?" Tell me, how did that go?

Ever tried to do your own plumbing, electrical work, or your own taxes?

Yes, I believe you can do these things yourself. But are you going to get the result you really want? Chances are that unless you have experience, training, and advanced knowledge about these specific areas, you will not at all be satisfied with the final product.

The Alternative...

Working with a therapist who has been trained in EMDR, like myself, from an EMDRIA-registered, experienced therapist who learned how to provide EMDR the right way is your best bet. Both in person and through telehealth. We discussed ethics, brain functioning, as well as how EMDR simulates REM sleep to process and restore healthy functioning after undergoing trauma.

Believe me. A full work weeks' worth of practice and training for learning just one intervention as well as follow up consultations left no stone unturned. It was during this week of training I learned how active the inner critic can be when reprocessing old beliefs or memories. Having that negative dialogue in your head of "You're not loveable," "You've got to be in control," or "You have no value" can distract from the processing of negative memories. If you have a therapist guide walking beside you, this is your insurance. Your buffer. Your grounding mechanism to the here and now.

How Can You Tell EMDR is Helping?

Instead of processing through those memories or beliefs and hearing only the negative, your EMDR therapist is trained to help you gain objectivity and see that your value does not rest on your ability to control the world, or have others see your value. You are loveable regardless. You have value regardless. You recognize appropriate control. And that is enough. The past will be distanced from the present like it should be, and you will begin to have relief. Then, if any related triggers arise in the following days or weeks, you can determine how they got to be there and how to approach them so that the target memories will be put to rest for good, rather than wondering "why didn't this work? What did I do wrong now?" You hear the inner critic? I do. You may find it helpful to have a visit in the "Making Friends with Your Anxiety" post if you don't.

You wouldn't try to set a broken bone yourself (or maybe you would, but see argument above), so why try to fix your trauma all by yourself? It's not fair to your past, present, and future self. In the spirit of teaching others to extend grace and compassion towards themselves, I encourage you to think about how it feels to have quality support from someone who has no agenda beyond your well-being. Your sessions may be intensive. There may be many of them, or there may be few. Many parts are at play, inducing the nature and severity of your trauma, as well as readiness to process.

It's important you understand that everyone's path looks different and that's one of the wonderful things about being human.

In this video, I introduce some of the basic nuts and bolts about EMDR. Whenever you're ready to get started, I'm here!

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