EMDR Therapy for Black Folks: Fact or Fiction? Part 1

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If  you’ve done some research on healing from trauma, you’ve likely heard of a practice called EMDR. EMDR is an abbreviation for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, but don’t worry just remembering the acronym is just fine. EMDR is an evidenced-based form of trauma therapy that uses left and right movement to help you heal. When I say evidenced-based, that means that researchers have tested the EMDR model and have found consistent and reliable improvement among participants. In other words, researchers have found that EMDR helps people heal. But, for some Black folks, the promise of healing is not enough and can be a trigger.

As a Black therapist, I understand why the Black community may be hesitant to try EMDR. So often, we are promised things that do not come true. Because of this, it’s natural for Black folks to feel hesitant, nervous, or skeptical about a form of therapy that promotes healing. As a Black therapist, I get it. But, as a Black trauma therapist, I know that this hesitancy causes Black folks to unconsciously say no to things that may be helpful.

Debunking common concerns about EMDR therapy for Black folks

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What is EMDR therapy, really?

EMDR therapy is a form of therapy that visits memories and uses left-right movement to desensitize their “charge”. In other words, sometimes memories are upsetting and in EMDR we visit the memory only to calm the memory. As a trauma survivor, every day, you live with the impact of hurtful memories. This impact appears in your thoughts, feelings, relationships, and more. In using EMDR we visit these memories briefly in hopes to calm their daily impact in your life.

What is the left-right movement in EMDR therapy, will you touch me?

As a Black, trauma-trained therapist, I will never initiate physical touch. Left-right movement in EMDR is called bilateral stimulation or dual attention stimulation. The left-right movement is done in a few ways and none of them include being touched by the therapist. The options may include: you following an object or light with your eyes as it moves left and right, the use of buzzers, or touching yourself while alternating from your left side to your right side. At R.I.S.E., it’s important to note that you pick the type of left-right movement used in EMDR, not your therapist.

How long will EMDR therapy take?

Most Black folks want to know the time investment for EMDR. I get this and 100% believe your time is valuable. But, the truth is, I have no idea. Here’s the thing, EMDR therapy at R.I.S.E. is tailored for each person. Because of this unique tailoring, the length of the process varies. Here’s what I can tell you, because EMDR targets your memories in clusters, it is a time-efficient form of therapy. In other words, yes it will take time, but it won’t take forever, and typically does not take as long as talk therapy alone.

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What if I want to stop EMDR therapy?

As a Black therapist, I know how important  it is for you to have choices and options. With EMDR therapy at R.I.S.E, you have the option to stop or pause. Before starting EMDR, we will develop a stop or pause signal. This signal will be one that you develop and often ranges. Sometimes this signal is a word, color, or gesture. All signals are welcome and honored. EMDR therapy, like other forms of trauma therapy, is about pacing the work. In other words, whenever you need comfort we will honor your feelings and responses by shift the work from EMDR to processing your feelings and creating a sense of calm.

Benefits of EMDR therapy

EMDR has been known to help folks who experience the following: grief/loss, lack of motivation, intrusive memories, depression, anxiety, difficulty maintaining relationships, difficulty trusting others, fear of being alone, and pervasive shame/guilt/self-blame. In working with these difficulties EMDR, will help you reconnect with your body, decrease stress responses, and improve self-esteem. As explained by the EMDR Institute, Inc., during studies assessing the effectiveness of EMDR, over 80% of participants showed a decrease in PTSD symptoms and maintained this decrease when reevaluated during follow-up.

Is EMDR culturally competent?

Historically, many interventions have not been created with Black folks in mind. But, one thing I love about my training in EMDR, is that it was culturally inclusive. My training in EMDR from the Rivers Edge Institute taught me how to apply a culturally sensitive and competent approach to EMDR therapy. In doing so, we will incorporate your belief system into the therapy process. This means that during the rapport building, stop signal creation, and safety establishing parts of EMDR we will find ways to honor African and African-American culture. For example, this may include using ancestral or historical images.

Curious to know more about EMDR therapy?

Here are two articles to help you learn more about EMDR:

The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences

Start EMDR therapy with a Black therapist in Baltimore, MD

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For many years Black people have experienced trauma from so-called helping professionals. As a result, we’ve had to be very cautious about seeking help. Being cautious has saved us in so many ways. Trust me, as a Black therapist, I understand this all too well. At R.I.S.E, genuine help and healing are the focus. We journey to healing together, led by you and your goals. I’m so ready to help you and I don’t take helping you lightly.  Get started with EMDR therapy now:

  1. Contact me here with any questions about counseling.
  2. No questions and ready to get started with therapy? Schedule a consultation now.
  3. Say yes to healing your heart and reconnecting with yourself.

Other Services at Revitalizing Inner Self Essence in Baltimore, MD

The decision to start therapy is not an easy one. Finding the right therapist can feel daunting. But I want to assure you that as a Black therapist, I am dedicated to creating a safe and welcoming environment for you to process trauma and reconnect with yourself and your life. At my Baltimore-area practice, I specialize in helping survivors of trauma with EMDR therapy using holistic and integrative skills. If you’re ready to get started, I am too. If you have further questions about me or my practice, please contact me.