What To Expect In EMDR Therapy

When I first started going to my therapist, I was worried because I had basically no idea what EMDR was. That and the concept seemed silly to me. I had also heard that EMDR didn’t work for DID Systems, so when I told my therapist that I had DID I was totally expecting her to say ‘I can’t work with you’ and that I’d be back on the hunt for a therapist again. She told me she had worked with clients with DID before which made me excited.

When we started doing EMDR I was scared and kind of anxious about it. The first thing we did that I considered EMDR was a slow back and forth to let a tiny drop of whatever feeling I had been feeling that was upsetting me. Since then we’ve basically done a slow back and forth every single time we come. Sometimes we also work with the hand buzzers which I will explain below.

The big thing to remember (if you have DID) is that you aren’t letting any parts go, this is only to release some of the negative thoughts/feels/energy that might be haunting you that day. When she does a slow back and forth with her finger she will move so she will be pointing her two fingers at you. Then she will move her finger very slowly all the way to the left then all the way to the right and then back to the middle (where she starts). Her fingers will then go down and you’ll be done unless you want to let more go and then you will repeat the process.

Sometimes you might use the buzzers, she and I use them if I’m doing any headworld stuff or if there is something we need to talk about that is longer but we don’t necessarily want to do more focused EMDR.


EMDR hand buzzers. A white box with three small dials that control speed, intensity, and volume. Below that is an on/off switch. There is a long cord that splits off into two smaller cords attached to the top.  At the end of each smaller cord is a small oblong handle which you hold in both hands. Photo Credit: http://www.colleenwest.com


Above is what they look like, along with a description of what it looks like. They may seem scary at first (especially to kid parts) but you can always drop the handles or ask your therapist to turn down the speed and/or intensity. They vibrate in your hand about as much as a phone does.

Once you get comfortable with each other and if your a system get your system to a safe and co-conscious level you will start with targeted EMDR therapy. This is where you’ll work on a memory and a couple of things related to that memory. Things like a phrase (about yourself)  you relate to the memory, a feeling in your body, and an image. She will then have you hold one of those things in your mind and do what she does when you ‘let a drop go’ except quicker and go back and forth a couple of times instead of just once.

This can be exhausting, all of it can be. It’s your brain moving around things and making them take up less space. Think of it as if you’re cleaning a house, this is your brain putting things in boxes and moving them to storage so they’re out of the way. Sometimes though it can be energizing, but it depends on the person.

Your therapist will probably only do a little of that at a time because if done too much the brain will start to flood with more things that want to be put in boxes and put away. Sometimes after my therapist will have me put those emotions into a container that can be stored out of the way (this is done by imagery in headworld). Remember this is not about getting rid of parts or putting parts in dormancy.

I hope this can give someone an idea of what to expect when doing EMDR therapy. If anyone has any other questions feel free to ask them!

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