Many forms of Psychopathology, including PTSD, should be seen as the result of disruptive experiences (in the form of fearful images, dysfunctional cognitions, negative emotions, and physical sensations) stored in the nervous system at the time of the event.Source: EMDR Handbook, A protocol-based treatment method for the consequences of psychotrauma, Ad de Jongh and Erik ten Broeke
May I ask you something?
“May I ask you something Wim”? A question one of my clients asked me last week, when I wanted to start with her in practice with a practice session EMDR. “Why are you actually going to deepen and train in EMDR?” I asked her to practice the EMDR basic protocol with me for a number of sessions. I recently started training to get acquainted with and become familiar with this treatment method. In order to be able to apply the method properly, it is important to develop sufficient skills in addition to theoretical knowledge to be able to offer the method in practice in a responsible manner. That means training and practicing. Fortunately, a number of my (former) clients were willing to arrange a number of practice sessions. The advantage of practicing with clients that I have already worked with is that there is sufficient safety, trust and therapeutic foundation in which to practice with the method.
A step back
My client’s question touched me. I asked her what made her want to ask me this question. She replied, “When you told me you were doing EMDR training, I felt like you were going to take a step back.” One step back? how so? I was somewhat amazed and not yet able to receive the compliment she actually made.
A choice for conventional or alternative
She later explained that she had received guidance and therapy from a ‘regular’ psychologist in the past and also worked with EMDR there. She told me that she had come to me (an alternative and complementary therapist) because I worked in a different way than regular mental health care and was not so stuck in procedures and protocols. When we were practicing she had seen me ‘struggling’ with the protocol and later said: “You are doing well”. She saw how I was preoccupied with the protocol and how I was in contact with her in a completely different way than she was used to.
Practice makes ‘perfect‘
Of course I have only just started and like everything you want to develop, this also needs time and attention to master. And this is done by developing knowledge (through training) and skills (through practice). Yet my client’s question stuck and I noticed that both the question and the answer to it have a relationship with my personal and professional development and quest as a therapist.
Psychosynthese as professional and personal learning path
You do not learn psychosynthesis as a therapy at a college or university. It is a personal and professional learning route that is offered by Psychosynthesis courses at the level of university of applied sciences. At the moment there are two training institutes in the Netherlands where you can develop and train yourself in psychosynthesis. The learning route therefore deviates from the traditional learning route that you follow as a ‘regular’ psychologist or psychotherapist. This means that as a psychosynthesis therapist you do not fall under regular care but under alternative or complementary care.
For me, my decision to follow an EMDR training felt like a ‘logical’ step after my training in the field of psychotrauma theory and therapy over the past year. They sometimes say that as a therapist you attract clients who match your own experience history. And I think this is correct. I have been working in the practice for three years now and have noticed that more and more clients with a history of early childhood chronic traumatization and symptoms and complaints of post-traumatic stress disorders and attachment problems find their way to the practice. EMDR can then, in addition to the existing offer, be a very good treatment method in the counseling or therapy process.
In 2008 after a long illness and recovery period, I myself was diagnosed with Chronic PTSD. The psychiatrist who was responsible for the diagnosis gave me advice with the report to follow EMDR therapy. I was given a list of regular psychotherapists who specialized in EMDR treatment. At the time, EMDR was still in its infancy and was not as well known as it is today.
Psychosynthesis group therapy
During that period I had just started Psychosynthesis group therapy. This group therapy was an advice I received as a result of the psychosynthesis advice weekends that I had followed in preparation for the psychosynthesis vocational training. After these weekends I wanted to finally complete my personal and professional learning pathway in psychosynthesis that I had already started in 1998. I felt a lot of resistance to follow the advice and I have taken ample time to give space to this resistance. After two intake interviews with the psychosynthesis group therapist, I could exchange my resistance for surrender to the process and trust in the involvement of both the therapist and the group. I remember taking the psychiatrist’s report and advice with me to review it with the therapist.
A short or long route
The therapist told me that he had already heard and read a lot about EMDR as a treatment method and that a lot of scientific research had been done on it. He said, “EMDR is the short route and psychosynthesis is the long route. It’s up to you what you want.” At the time, I could not imagine what that ‘long route’ had in store for me. But I never regretted the choice I made to take the long route. A route where I came face to face through therapy and training and dared to sink more and more from my head to my heart and from my heart more and more into my body.
EMDR as an independent therapy or as part of a counseling process
We are now 13 years later and although I have been working in our own practice for three years now, I am still on the road. A personal and professional learning path that actually never stops. The EMDR has taken off considerably in those years and more and more regular and alternative therapists are including the EMDR treatment method in their offer as independent trauma therapy or as part of a therapy or counseling process.
Association EMDR Netherlands
It is unfortunate that the alternative therapist who wants to master the knowledge and skills with regard to the EMDR, cannot do this with ‘recognized’ EMDR trainers. When I asked the Association EMDR Netherlands if I could follow a course with them, I got the following answer:
Unfortunately, we have to disappoint you. You cannot apply for dispensation, because as we read your description you do not meet the required registration (BIG-GZ or eg VGCt) and work setting. To be eligible for participation in the EMDR basic course, there must be a BIG registration as a healthcare psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist.
EMDR is a specialized psychotherapeutic method that is considered worldwide to be reserved for people with an academic background and specialist knowledge in the field of psychology / psychiatry. In the Netherlands this is a GZ psychologist, psychotherapist and psychiatrist. General practitioners and ‘normal’ psychologists are excluded. For more information, see: www.emdr.nl.Association EMDR Netherlands
I was somewhat disappointed in the answer and felt sidelined not only to myself but also to my entire profession as ‘not good enough therapists’.
Back to the question
Back to my client’s question “May I ask you a question, Wim? Why are you going to deepen and train in EMDR?” Many clients continue to look for reliable and committed help and support for often complex problems, but are often not in the ‘luxury’ position as I was, to take a ‘long route’ with years of therapy and training. That does not mean that the EMDR is a quick fix. It remains important to be able to offer treatment in an expert, safe and trusted therapeutic setting. The practice for psychosynthesis Amsterdam would like to make a suitable offer for these clients.
Finally a big thank you for the “question” of my test client “where she not only asked me a question, but at the same time gave a great compliment of appreciation and confidence in me as a person and as a therapist. She emphasized again: “If you want to start offering it anyway, I hope you keep doing it your way”!
How does EMDR work? An animation