Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) research success rates make the treatment appear somewhat magical. If I recall correctly, EMDR is one of the most scientifically based therapies. However, it seems that no matter the level of research I did to prepare myself for the therapy, I had no paradigm for the process until I was the client.
I anxiously sat on the couch and looked around the room as I answered her questions. At the end of the questioning, she told me I was not ready for treatment. She said I need to work on my coping and containment skills; I need to learn to shut my emotions down and not let them spiral; I need to be able to manage my triggers before I reach a 10. She would talk to me in several weeks to determine if I would be ready then.
The therapist noticed my dejected expression and said she’d show me what EMDR was like. I watched her remove the “tappers” from the chest across the room. She handed me a tapper for each hand and calmly stated, “Tell me when you’re in your safe place,” as she returned to her seat. I did, and she told me to describe my safe place, including how I felt and where I felt it, what I heard and what I saw. Then, she turned on the tappers and I felt my hands vibrate alternately for a few seconds each.
After about 15 seconds, she asked me how I felt. I explained that it was difficult to concentrate on my safe place with my hands vibrating. She said we would try one more time. After I had found my safe place, she turned the tappers on once more. “What did you think?” she asked once this set was complete.
“I don’t like these,” I replied.
“Are you okay?”
After what felt like an eternity, I was able to speak. “The tingles from the vibration are the same thing I feel right before I dissociate.” Session was over, but the therapist decided to do the lightsource grounding technique on me. This is where you imagine a light coming in from above and flowing through every inch of your body. Instead of grounding me, I felt myself slipping farther away as it spiraled me into flashbacks.
At some point after I left her office, I dissociated completely. When I was once again cognizant, I nearly panicked because I was driving and had no idea where I was. I was about to pull over when I saw a sign that indicated I was less than five minutes from home. I had never dissociated while driving before, and the flashbacks I had the remainder of the night were stronger than usual.