As many of you may know, I have undertaken intensive training in EMDR in the last year. As a couple therapist, it made sense to me to see how this incredible therapy could be used and added to the work I’m already doing as a relationship and sex therapist. In light of the above, I received training from the great Mark Brayne himself (founder of EMDR for Couples) and launched this new modality with the couples who come and see me. Here are a few FAQs that might be helpful in understanding how EMDR can work for couples.
- What is EMDR?
EMDR therapy is considered a new, nontraditional form of psychotherapy. Therapists mostly use it to treat PTSD or trauma responses.
This therapy is based on the theory that traumatic events aren’t properly processed in the brain when they happen. This is why they continue to affect us — with nightmares, flashbacks, and feelings of the trauma happening again — long after the actual trauma is over.
When something reminds you of the trauma, your brain and body react as though it’s happening again. The brain isn’t able to tell the difference between the past and the present.
This is where EMDR comes in. The idea, known as the adaptive information processing model, is that you can “reprocess” a disturbing memory to help you move past it.
- How is EMDR different with couples?
Well, I guess, to some degree it isn’t. The difference is, instead of the therapist ‘tapping’ or bilaterally stimulating the client, their spouse is. With couples, I ask the partners to face each other while thinking of a moment in time that causes distress or a negative feeling. Without arguing, justifying, or the partners talking, then I then ask one of the partners (we take turns) to allow their mind to take them as far as it can go, to land in whatever place it chooses, and tell the story of what has come to mind and why this may be associated to the trigger that was initially thought of. This allows partners to generate empathy and active listening skills. After that, we would process the trauma as per the normal EMDR protocol (trauma memory and its associated belief ie ; I’m not good enough, I’m unsafe etc)
- Does it work?
I’d be crazy if I didn’t say I believe it does (and if not crazy, I’d be wasting my time!). I have seen lots of great results, but I won’t lie; it can be quite intense at the time, since we are purposely activating trauma. The idea though, is to work on containing our emotions first and practice supporting each other (between the partners). I do talk more about EMDR here and here.
- Are we a good candidate for Couple EMDR or should we stick to traditional relationship/sex therapy?
All those therapies have value and to be honest, I generally mix and match based on the person or couple’s needs. The best thing is to come and have a chat with me so we can determine a good plan for your goals. Remember that if nothing changes, nothing changes. You’re in charge of getting yourself to where you want to end up, The question is… Where is that?
How EMDR Can Benefit Couples
Addressing Past Traumas: Just as individuals can be haunted by traumatic experiences, couples can be burdened by collective traumas, such as infidelity, loss, or significant conflicts. EMDR can help partners process these shared distressing events, facilitating understanding, empathy, and healing.
Reframing Negative Beliefs: Couples often develop negative beliefs about themselves or each other due to past experiences. EMDR can target these beliefs and help reprocess them, allowing partners to perceive themselves and their relationship in a healthier and more positive light.
Resolving Emotional Triggers: Every couple has their triggers—words, actions, or situations that evoke strong emotional responses. EMDR can help partners identify the underlying memories or experiences that contribute to these triggers, allowing them to manage their reactions more constructively.
Enhancing Communication: EMDR therapy encourages open and empathetic communication. As partners share their thoughts and feelings during sessions, the bilateral stimulation can help them process their emotions more effectively and listen to each other with greater understanding.
Building Stronger Connections: By addressing past traumas and negative beliefs, couples can cultivate a deeper emotional bond. The healing process through EMDR can foster resilience and promote growth, ultimately strengthening the relationship.
Cultivating Mutual Reconciliation and Growth: EMDR sessions can provide a safe and structured environment for partners to reconcile together. Sharing vulnerabilities and witnessing each other’s progress can create a sense of shared accomplishment and closeness.
EMDR therapy’s expansion into couples counselling offers a promising avenue for partners seeking to overcome their challenges and build healthier, more fulfilling relationships. By addressing past traumas, negative beliefs, and emotional triggers, couples can work together, forging a stronger bond in the process. As EMDR continues to evolve and adapt, it holds the potential to transform the landscape of couples therapy, offering new avenues for connection and healing. If you’re considering couples counselling, exploring the possibilities of incorporating EMDR therapy could be a transformative step towards a more vibrant and harmonious relationship.
Where can I find out more about it?
Contact me for more information here