EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Essentially it’s a type of therapy that’s used to address trauma. When EMDR is performed, the client recalls a traumatic memory while moving their eyes back and forth or doing another type of what is called “bilateral stimulation,” which is an activity that engages both sides of the brain. Some other versions of bilateral stimulation include tapping on both sides of the body or holding pads that vibrate in each hand.
Researchers are still doing work on understanding why exactly EMDR and other types of bilateral stimulation work to process trauma memories and make them less intense. Some believe that it’s because the eye movement mimics REM sleep so it allows our brains to file away traumatic memories in their proper place. The overall effect of EMDR is designed to reduce the intense emotions around recalling traumatic memories so that people increase fewer flashbacks and distress when they are reminded of these memories.
Francine Shapiro is credited with inventing it, and she wrote a book called Getting Past Your Past if you want to learn more in-depth what it’s about.
DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It’s a set of exercises and concepts that are used to help people understand and regulate their own emotions, and then apply that to improving their relationships with others. There are four major parts of DBT, which are distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
The idea of a “dialectic” is that we can hold two opposing thoughts at the same time. DBT is all about finding the healthy middle ground and getting away from black-and-white thinking.
Marsha Linehan is the inventor of DBT and her book A Life Worth Living is a great read if you’re interested in learning more about how she came up with the theory. Marsha was institutionalized as a young person when she was in intense emotional distress and wanted to commit suicide. She applied her own learning to her research when she created DBT.
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s a type of therapy that focuses on changing the way that people think about themselves and things around them. One key idea from CBT is that we can change our habits around how we think about things, and that can change our perspective in our lives.
CBT focuses a lot on finding the negative thoughts that a person experiences and finding if there are issues or things within those assumptions that are not true. There are lots of free worksheets and writing exercises online if you like this idea since CBT has been around for many decades.
Aaron Beck is the inventor of CBT. A great book to use for basic CBT principles is Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns.
IFS stands for Internal Family Systems. This is a type of therapy where the person examines the different parts of themselves and understands how they work together, kind of like a family.
IFS can be used to address parts of the self that a person generally doesn’t accept, like the part of the self that is addicted or the part of the self that gets angry easily. Some people like to draw pictures or visualize themselves talking to their different parts to understand them better. The goal of IFS is to accept and understand what every part wants.
Richard Schwartz is the inventor of IFS, and a great book on IFS for a beginner is Self Therapy by Jay Earley.
The first two sessions have a certain formula to them, and that will decide what you talk about in the sessions that follow. In the first session, the therapist asks more questions to understand whatever symptoms you’re experiencing, how these impact your life, as well as medical issues and relationships in order to get a bigger picture. The second session you and the therapist come up with goals for what you want to get out of therapy. After that, you can talk about things that come up during the time between sessions, times when you felt intense emotions, realizations you had about yourself or your relationships, or how you are taking care of yourself. There are lots more things that a person may talk about in therapy, it will depend a lot on what those goals are and what you want to get out of the experience.
If you’re unsure you will get along with a therapist, look at their website and any other links they have to get more information about them. If you don’t understand their credentials or acronyms, you can look those up. A lot of therapists also offer a free consultation so you can do a 10-15 minute phone call with the therapist and ask questions. This is a chance to get a feel for the therapist and see if you feel comfortable with them.
It’s pretty normal to not feel completely comfortable with a therapist at first. They’re a new person and you don’t know if you can trust them yet. Notice how you feel in the session and afterwards, if you feel heard, if the therapist is on time, if they allow you to set your own goals, and if they push you to change at a pace you can handle. A therapist isn’t your friend, so sometimes they may say things that are uncomfortable. However, they should not insult you, make you feel small or helpless, or act like they know more than you about your own life.
You are the consumer and if you want to end therapy, you can do that. If you don’t like a therapist, you can stop going to therapy. It’s a good idea to tell them what you don’t like and see if it can be resolved first if that’s possible.
If you’re using insurance, the therapist will take down your insurance info and bill the insurance company. There may be a copay that you have to pay per session. Unfortunately, since plans are so different between each insurance company, your therapist isn’t going to know exactly what you’ll pay per session until after billing. You can get this information yourself by calling your insurance company (using the number on the back of the card, or chatting online with someone on their website) and asking what your “responsible portion” is per session. You may also have your rate change mid-year if you meet your deductible so it’s a good idea to ask what your deductible is and what your rate will be before and after you meet this.
If you don’t have insurance or you don’t have insurance that your therapist accepts, you can do a sliding fee cash payment. At Amity Counseling & Consultation, that sliding fee is based on income, so the therapist will ask you for your approximate yearly income and household size to see where you fall on the scale. If you earn more, you pay more, and that covers the costs for clients who can’t afford to pay as much.