Are you ever in an EMDR session with clients and you don’t know if the processing is stuck. You wonder if they might be looping in the processing and you might want to say or do something. However you remember that training teaches us to stay out of the way much as possible. So you are just unsure. Do you need to offer a cognitive interweave, make some changes or just keep saying go with that. Well this blog might help as I share with you some of the main things I notice in my clients when EMDR gets stuck. If you want to find out more you can purchase your PDF Getting Unstuck Here

Telling you the same things.

Clients come for trauma therapy when they have been through some really difficult life experiences. Clients often go into a great amount of detail in their mind during the processing about what their trauma memory. As a therapist I need to listen carefully. I often find that clients that are stuck keep going through the same things. This is so difficult to spot because sometimes clients do need to go there and do it again. But it can also be a sign that they are stuck with the processing. So if you notice this happening in a session. Ask yourself, are we processing here or is the memory stuck? If you are unsure you can use a number of other measures. See below 👇to decide if your client might be looping.

Nothing changes when you go back to the memory

We are taught generally to go back to the memory at the end of our channels of association. My favourite line will be ‘When we go back to the memory, what do you notice now’. Be observant as to what is happening. Is everything about the memory is staying the same, then it is likely that we are stuck in the EMDR processing. 

We keep going round the same emotions

EMDR is such an emotional therapy, it’s one of the things I love so much about the work. When I initially trained in EMDR I was trained in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. Almost immediately I found that EMDR was a bit like Heineken and it was able to reach the spots that other therapies didn’t. Anyone remember that advertising campaign!!

So I love my sessions when we process a memory and the client really works through the emotions. When we have an abreaction, work through it safely and come out feeling different. The power of the emotion alters. What can often happen if the processing is stuck is that the client keeps going over and over the same emotion in the same way. Again this can be hard to spot. As therapists we are watching and listening closely. Paying attention to everything our clients tells us and what their bodily response is during processing. So often if the client is saying they feel emotion. But somehow it doesn’t seem to be changing, or it feels exactly the same as the first time they told you about it then they might be stuck.

The SUDs are not decreasing 

When I first trained in EMDR I would regularly make the mistake of asking for a SUD rating frequently throughout a single session. I think I was anxious about actually doing the processing. I needed some reassurance from my client that I was doing it right and they were getting better! Well thankfully I have worked past that phase as I don’t think it was helpful at all to my clients. So now my general practice is to only ask SUDs during a processing session if I think they have come down to a 0. I will always ask them at the start of a session. So if a client gives you the same SUDs and you are thinking that some of the things discussed above might be happening then yes, you might be stuck and the processing might be looping.

No change in their functioning outside of the sessions

I usually have the first 5 minutes of a session to review the clients week. I will check in with the goals that they are working towards and see if they are heading in the right direction. If there are no changes in any of this then I will consider that the processing is stuck and start to be more active in my EMDR processing.

So as always with EMDR, how you work in a session depends so much on what the client is saying and doing, what you as a therapist is thinking and feeling and everything you know about the client from previous sessions. So even though the fly on the wall might see you just doing some bilateral stimulation and say an odd few words here and there, there is so much more to it! Click here to purchase your Getting Unstuck PDF

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