What to Expect in an EMDR Session?


EMDR Counseling

EMDR Counseling

Schedule an Appointment Online, or Call 510-686-3390 or email toddharveytherapist@gmail.com


What plagues my clients who have had horrendous tragedies are not the events themselves, but the stuck unconscious thoughts that the client has about themselves that are connected with the traumatic event(s).  This means, it is not the actual rape, gun shot, car accident, etc, that is plaguing the client, but rather the thought that they have about themselves that are stuck as a result of the event.  For example,  “I deserved it.  I’m dirty.  I’m unsafe.  It will happen again. I am helpless.  etc.”

So, with EMDR, I have my clients visualize a traumatic snap-shot picture of the event that happens.  I have them identify what this memory makes them think about themselves now (in the present).  I have them rank the degree in which they believe their thoughts on an emotional / gut feeling level (not a rational level).  I have them rank how disturbing their thoughts are.  I then do “bilateral stimulation”.  Basically, I will tell you to think of the event then look at my hand as I move it back and forth (causing your eyes to go back and forth).  Then I will say, “what comes up now?”  And you will tell me whatever comes up.  And I will do bilateral stimulation again and ask “what comes up?”  We will repeat this many many times.  While doing this, I will make sure that you are safe, that I am with you, and that you are processing the trauma while both hemispheres of your brain are stimulated.  In essence, as a team, we are replicating REM / the body’s natural way of dealing with trauma.    We are stimulating both hemispheres of your brain while allowing you to process your trauma.  I am not doing anything magic at all.  It is not hypnosis.  You are awake and aware of everything that is happening.  Your brain does exactly what it is designed to do, process your trauma to a successful resolution.  Basically, in a nut-shell, I believe that EMDR works because the “bilateral stimulation” by-passes the part of the brain that is stuck (due to the trauma) that is preventing the left side of the brain from self-soothing the right side of the brain.

Clients will often start a session with a lot of anxiety about a specific event that happened and by the end of the session be able to visualize the same event and not have any disturbing symptoms.  And what is great about this is the reduction in disturbance is usually  not temporary.  When it is successful, it means that the client’s own left brain was able to be engaged in a fashion that was able to self-soothe their right brain (who carries the worries from the event).  So, after EMDR is successfully accomplished, the client will still be aware of what happened, but their “fight or flight”area of their brain will not feel a need to stay over-activated.  They will feel safe.  And since they feel safe, their PTSD symptoms (hyper-vigilance, etc) will no longer be necessary to ward of attacks.


1)  People who have a an ability to self-soothe, in general.

2)  People who can be taught to have an ability to self-soothe.

The success of EMDR depends on the ability of the client to self-soothe themselves already being in place.  Nothing magic is being done.  What is actually happening is that EMDR is assisting the client’s left brain to by-passing a blocked part of the right brain so that the client’s internal resources that are already in place are able to self-soothe themselves.  So, for EMDR to be successful, it presumes an ability for the client to self-soothe themselves, in general.

This means that prior to using  EMDR, the therapist must first insure that the client has an ability to adequately self-soothe themselves.  For trained EMDR therapists, Philip Manfield’s book, Dyadic Resourcing is a great resource to learning how to utilize a technique that can help clients who do not have an ability to self-soothe to have internal resources ground them.  It provides a resource for clinicians to help their clients internalize a “healthy adult” and a “healthy child” that are able to soothe each other.  These internal resources are a pre-requisites to doing EMDR.


Many people have been mis-diagnosed as “borderline personality disorder” or “bi-polar” when what they are really struggling with is untreated PTSD due to some painful traumatic events in their lives. For clients who perhaps have been mis-diagnosed with one of those diagnosis, it is extremely important for the therapist to help their client develop internal resources that enable them to relying on in order to self-soothe.  If they are mis-diagnosed with “borderline personality disorder” or “bi-polar” or “manic depressive” then EMDR may be able to heal their underlying trauma and allow them to have functional lives and their “bi-polar” or “manic depressive” or “borderline” symptoms will go away.  However, if they truly do have an underlying biological condition and their symptoms have not been mis-diagnosed then EMDR may not be the treatment of choice and a referral to a psychiatrist for mediation would  be the most appropriate response.

Schedule an Appointment Online, or Call 510-686-3390 or email toddharveytherapist@gmail.com

For Help With Couples Counseling, Couples Therapy, Emotion Focused Couples Therapy, High Conflict Couples, Communication Skills, Marital Fights, Divorce, Infidelity, is Todd Harvey, a Male Therapist who has an office in Berkeley, in Rockridge on the border of Oakland.

Couples Counseling and Couples Therapy in Berkeley, serving the Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito, Piedmont, Emeryville, Richmond, El Sobrante, Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Alameda, Grand Lake, Lake Merritt, Rockridge, Piedmont Avenue, Temescal, Montclair,East Bay, Bay Area, and San Francisco Bay Area. And easy access to the following zip-codes: 94701, 94702, 94703, 94704, 94705, 94706, 94707, 94708, 94709, 94710, 94712, 94720, 94577, 94601, 94602, 94603, 94605, 4606, 94607, 94609, 94610, 94611, 94612, 94613, 94618, 94619, 94621, 94704, 94705, 94707, 94620, 94706, 94608, 94609, 94803, 94820, 94563, 94549, 94579, 94598, 94595, 94596, 94502, 94501.

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