If you are among those who have heard of EMDR, then you may believe that the only way to participate in this form of therapy is by using eye movements. Which is a perfectly reasonable assumption, given that EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. But in all actuality, the assumption that one must be able to move their eyes from side to side in a rhythmic manner in order to participate in EMDR is incorrect.
The truth of the matter is that there are actually three methods of doing bilateral stimulation. The first and most well-known is the eye movements. Eye movements can be done by the therapist moving their fingers or a wand in front of the client’s eyes in a rhythmic manner while the client is asked to hold a thought (as instructed by the therapist) and follow the movement of the fingers. Other therapists use a light box that have LED’s that replicate this movement back and forth, or in a diagonal or even a figure 8 motion. Sometimes, we have to vary the motion.
But not everyone can use the eye movement method. There are several reasons why and among them are: a history of migraines, a history of seizures or serious eye problems. And for these people, we have other ways of doing bilateral stimulation.
We can use tactile methods. For instance, I, and many other EMDR practitioners, have a handy little electronic box. It comes with hand sensors that buzz and headphones that sound a tone. Some clients prefer to use both the headphones and the hand sensors and others prefer one over the other. It really is a matter of client comfort as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, you listen and at the same time the hand sensors lightly buzz in your corresponding hand while you are holding a thought.
But some people are uncomfortable with those options as well. For those folks, we offer a third method and that is called tapping. This is when the therapist sits in front of you and, with your permission, taps on the outside of your knees in a rhythmic pattern while you hold a thought and notice the tapping. I have one client who prefers it when I tap in the palms of her hands. For her this is what gets the job done.
I have long been a believer that one size does not fit all in any form of psychotherapy or substance abuse treatment and I believe my clients when they tell me the same goes for EMDR. So if you are interested in trying EMDR, but are a bit concerned that you would not like it because of the eye movements, it is still worth a phone call and conversation to see if this method would be appropriate for you.