Getting "better" at EMDR as a patient


Is it possible to get better at EMDR over time? I don't understand why but it seems that if, like my last session we start working on stuff fairly early in my appointment I start getting "hangover" sooner. This last session it was actually starting halfway through therapy and I don't know how much I got out of the last half of my appointment.

There was one other thing that went with this. My T gave me an exercise around Christmas to reset my working memory. I don't use it much as it induces a feeling like an electric shock 220v not 110v, (110/60hz tickles, 220 hurts ). I got that same feeling in my last therapy session on the first thing we worked on.

It wasn't a banner day up to the point I got to therapy either. I was having time distortion issues, working memory problems, to the point I got to therapy 40 minutes early and didn't realize it until I went to plug the parking meter.

So, can you get "better" at EMDR over time?
Is it better focus?
Or is it that my guard is down more in therapy as we go along?
Or was it just that I hit the "perfect conditions" for that session?


I don’t know if you get better, but perhaps certain areas are easier to work on than others?

Sometimes I have had what seems like magical twinkling in my body with a really successful session, and other times we’ve had to stop midway because I couldn’t tolerate it, or we’ve had to go over the same thing for several weeks.

I don’t think it’s a one size fits all solution. But. The longer I’ve had emdr (over two years now), the better I’ve got at managing my anxiety beforehand if I know we’re looking at something tricky, and I am more aware of how to look after myself after a tough appointment.


i can't speak specifically of EMDR, but my own therapy cycle is that i start every program with skepticism and the program gets easier with bit of skepticism i lay to rest. i solidly believe that initial skepticism is a healthy part of the process. it's good to keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out. addressing all those bits of skepticism, openly and honestly, is a vital part of the process. just believing. . .

on a broader stroke, is there anything in life that doesn't get easier/better with practice and well-tested awareness?


EMDR has always been a series of starts and stops for me. I should be pretty stabilized and getting "good at it" but I think my daily mood, events before the session, the counselor's level of adherence to what a standard session "is", and probably the mood of the counselor and how I interpret their mood that day have huge impacts on the "good at it".
It works, but it is temperamental. In my world I would call it an intermittent mechanical problem, the hardest to track down and find fixes for. Drive you nuts.
Sure, you can set yourself up for getting results easier over time, but like a bug on a windshield, it doesn't take much to get from clean and clear to contaminated and not as good as before.


The thing that surprised me the most is that I was already a little loaded with reprocessing tasks and this one was like nothing before. But it was nothing directly to do with trauma. It's something we worked on from trauma one already and I thought it would help with trauma two but I guess there is more that is hidden than is seen about that trauma still.

Added to that is that we both (T and I) recognize that both events went on far longer than I ever thought they did. Some of what we were working on has to do with where memory "shatters" after the start of the trauma. That means there are no conscious memories or timeline - just a few fragments to deal with.

What was weird is it was so far from what has happened to this point I struggle to understand why. That and it always scares me what is going to pop up in memories before my next session.


I was going to post a similar question, so this might be in the wrong spot.

Do you find the aftermath to be getting better?

The first few times I did EMDR I was flooded with flashbacks and body memories most of the weekend. We took a short break and went with a different memory and there wasn’t much in the aftermath category, no more than might be usual for a regular session. Then we switched to a harder memory and I spent a night dissociating and shut down for the weekend. Since then I’ve journaled then shut it out and the last couple of times I haven’t really had to work the shutting it out function. Is this normal or am I not getting enough out of the experience? Weirdly after years of abuse if it doesn’t hurt it must not be working. ::insert sarcasm here::

I guess I also worry because I’m not the most in touch with my feelings or my body, I’m worried I’m too shut down for this process to work. I will be asking my T next week when I see him but I also wondered other people‘s experiences.


I've been doing emdr for 3 years and while I don't think you get "better" at it, it does get a bit easier as you build coping skills. Don't get me wrong - it still sucks even though its amazing when it works. Plus you won't always be working on the big bad stuff. Sometimes it will be smaller things that go easier.

So my advice?
think of it in baby steps-one memory at a time.
Communicate with your t about what happens once you leave the office so she knows if her pacing is correct
Accept that small goals are what you are after - not big ones
Be Honest with your t if you feel overwhelmed. There are many ways to pace things so that you don't get overwhelmed - don't try to tough it out. Let your t help you stay in your tolerance place even if it seems like its going on and on and on

Take the time you need! My entire family knows to leave me alone for 24 hours after a session.

Most important?
Keep faith in the process. Keep track of your wins, even the small ones. Sometimes that's the only way I can get myself to go back


@Freida first-good to see you on here
I just dropped in to add that I now know what diminishing returns are all about with EMDR and unlike you:
Keep faith in the process. Keep track of your wins, even the small ones. Sometimes that's the only way I can get myself to go back
I have lost some faith in it. I think of it now as guided self hypnosis at best, probably because it has been online with bilateral music and Vagas nerve stimulation. After getting less and less out of it I started working more and more on the self hypnosis, think of it as bio feedback exercises without the hook ups but done till it takes me to a place where the memories are a little easier to pull out and run the tapes.
I still think EMDR is one of two things that work for me. That will always be, but until I am driving to a session again it is most definitely on hold no matter how much faith I want to have or how good at it I think I am. It just doesn’t carry the punch it used to, and what it does carry I can maybe match with a quiet two or three hours alone staring at my fingertip, then the mountain, finger, mountain, think about the second toe, left foot, finger mountain toe finger mountain, you get it.


The weird thing is the sessions themselves are pretty much the same, fairly intense. It’s the after affects that have gotten better, that’s why I wondered like the OP if you can get better at it. I’ve had about 10 sessions at this point but not in a row. We did some back in December/January but the after effects were unmanageable so we took a break and went back to just talk therapy. Then we tried again towards the end of April and some more in May and recently. There’s still processing occurring after the session I’m just able to leave it on the paper better and it isn’t haunting me like it was. I don’t know that I’d say it’s working yet but then I have a lot to process with multiple abusers and a chaotic home life. I do EMDR one day a week and regular talk therapy 1 day a week which is also a shift but it helps to know that whatever after affects come up there’s another session to deal with it.


But trying to start on line?
Biggest thing there is sitting in front of my T - he can read my body language from head to toes. That's one place we get good at lying with PTSD - Look I'm Fine!!!

But your feet - your feet never lie. (I like playing poker and one of the best players ever noted that.)

Lots of further reflection says it may not be getting better at EMDR but getting more "open" with emotions and more trusting along with being able to communicate with my T better. Sad sad reality is that I probably spend more time talking in therapy than I do in the weeks in between. It's not trust it's understanding. It's that my T gets whats going on and it's a safe place to let frustration out, because then we can look for the source of that frustration.