Finding an EMDR Therapist

So, I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was going to look into EMDR. I had already seen one therapist and after intake she insisted that I do comprehensive DBT because there is 24/7 access to the therapists. I do not, however, want 24/7 access to anyone. I value my autonomy and independence. I’m not entirely sure where she got the impression that I wanted that level of care. Despite that, I saw the therapist she recommended. She seemed nice enough, kind of abrasive, but still nice. We talked about the fact that she thought I needed group and individual which doesn’t really work for me temporally (in terms of time) or monetarily (in terms of money). So, I compromised and am working through DBT with a talkspace therapist who I have access to 5 times a week.

I thought that given that, I could then start work with the EMDR therapist but she pretty clearly expressed that she strongly feels I need the comprehensive DBT and she doesn’t want to work with me. That kind of hurt my feelings. It felt like a personal rejection. Like, am I really that awful?! Despite that I didn’t give up. I told her thanks but I respectfully disagree. And then I looked elsewhere for a therapist. It is my health and I get to choose what I do with it. I am high functioning and well educated. I am the best person to advocate for my needs and I won’t let someone push me into something that doesn’t suit my needs, just because it makes the most sense to them. They don’t know me how I know me.

So, I met with another therapist yesterday. I am on the fence about her. She is an intern, so not too much further ahead in her education/career than I am which made her easy to relate to and talk with; however, the session felt almost too much like just a conversation with a friend. She didn’t remember to cover the limits of confidentiality during intake, I had to remind her and that was before she knew I was a counseling student. And, I’m not sure the level of self-disclosure was a healthy level of self-disclosure. I already know that her mother has BPD, that the counselor was with a marine in her teens, that she cheated on him with a woman, that she has cats, that her mother tries to get her to engage in a counseling relationship with her, that she let the sister of her marine ex live with her for a while and the marine ex stopped talking to the sister because of that, etc. It was a lot. Granted, most of it got me to open up more about my own stuff, so it wasn’t without purpose. I don’t know though. I’m stuck on this one. She doesn’t have reservations about working with me which is good. She also is willing to hear me out about things I learn that I feel can be applied to my care, which is one of the things I appreciate most about my psychiatrist, that it feels truly collaborative. So, I’d like that in therapy as well. But I am afraid I need something less jovial and more nurturing and structured. What do y’all make of the level of self disclosure? If it were your appointment would you give it a few more sessions or would you look elsewhere?

29 Thoughts

  1. HI, I would be incredibly wary of a therapist that shared that much personal information, to me I would question their ability to maintain my confidentiality. I don’t have experience of DBT but I have had EMDR. EMDR is a very tough therapy to go through, if your mental health is fairly unstable EMDR could push you further into depression. If you want to chat further about my experience of EMDR that’s ok. Take care and I hope you find a therapy and therapist to meet your needs.
    Karen.

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    1. I was pretty unstable when I saw that first therapist, so I do totally get why she recommended DBT for stabilization; however, I also bounce back really quickly. I’ve got a fantastic support system that really helps me put things back into perspective, which is kind of why I didn’t feel the need for the 24/7 access. Lol I have something comparable in my friends and we pay each other with time and love instead. I figured with EMDR part of the process would still be phase 1 work and I am totally okay with that, I just wanted to be building the therapeutic relationship with the therapist I planned to eventually be doing EMDR with, you know? That’s why I compromised with the talkspace therapist, so I could afford to do the DBT concurrently.

      Thank you for the reassurance on the sharing too much therapist. That is kind of what my gut is telling me but sometimes my gut is wrong. So I appreciate reality checks.

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      1. Building a relationship with the therapist is crucial with EMDR as (for me at least) I have never felt so vulnerable. When the trauma memories come to the surface they can be completely overwhelming and can take you right back to being helpless and terrified. So you really do need to feel comfortable, safe and confident that the therapist is able to bring you down from this distress.

        I would say that the time taken to find the right person will be worth any delay in therapy.

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        1. Oo, that reaffirms that maybe the concerns about therapist 2 are right. I don’t know if she would be able to handle significant distress. Thank you for the perspective on actually doing the work of EMDR. I only know what I’ve heard and read so hearing things from someone who has actually done it themselves is helpful.

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          1. I’m not going into too much detail but I have a number of traumas that occurred from age 12/13 onwards, the last being my cancer experience. We started with the earliest and I would get flooded with the emotions regarding all of the traumas, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t access my safe place, my mind was basically screaming at me that I was to blame for everything that had ever happened to me and that I would be responsible for everything that was going to happen in the future. My therapist (lovely lovely man, very softly spoken, considerate, calming) really struggled to bring me down. I had to leave the session in a state of distress and felt horrendous for about two days afterwards, but (this is the good bit) once I’d processed all the distress and distorted beliefs I felt a huge shift in my depression, I felt lighter, like I’d been freed from my stuck emotions. At the next session he wouldn’t do EMDR because of the level of distress I’d been in. I stated my case, i.e. that it had made a huge difference after the session, and after consideration and discussion with his supervisor agreed to restart the following week.
            EMDR is fantastic but you do need to be sufficiently stable to be able to tolerate it.

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          2. If you’re the one paying for it I would hope your wishes were listened to. For me, accessing therapy via the wonderful NHS, it was very much up to the therapist.

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  2. I would be wary of that level of disclosure from a therapist too. She might be trying to make you feel comfortable by showing you that she is no stranger to dysfunction, but it’s not right! It would definitely make me question her boundaries and whether she would be using her job to work through her own issues.
    It’s a shame that the other therapist didn’t explain why she didn’t want to work with you. I don’t know why DBT and EMDR cannot be done at the same time, but what Karen said sounds plausible. Perhaps the DBT is used to stabilise before EMDR which will involve delving into the trauma.
    It may be worth seeing the therapist for another one or two sessions to monitor the self disclosure and boundaries. I hope you find someone suitable soon.

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    1. The DBT is definitely done to stabilize. I just also know I need to be working on the relationship with the person who is going to be doing EMDR, because that part is going to be time consuming for me, too. Trust is hard. That’s what I told the first therapist. I think she definitely just decided I needed more stabilization than she was comfortable providing. Or maybe it was a personality thing, she could have felt like we didn’t click, like maybe empathy and unconditional positive regard wouldn’t be possible. Who knows.

      I am going to talk to my group therapist about the session with EMDR therapist 2 and see what she says. But I think both of you are right, it maybe is an indication of poor boundaries.

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      1. Are you able to contact therapist 1 and ask her why she didn’t want to work with you? I can also see that paying for two lots of therapy, one of which may not be beneficial, is crazy. As well as the time needed to build trust with each therapist. I’m a bit slow 😂, but having read your discussion with Karen, I get the impression that you would rather go straight to EMDR. Each session would have to have time built in to make you feel safe enough to leave afterwards and having a support network outside of sessions is good. It’s not like you will dive into trauma straight away anyway. You are obviously well able to advocate for yourself as well as having self awareness. If you’re not able to tolerate it, you can stop. Therapist 1 seems to have a one size fits all approach without assessing you based on your personality and lifestyle.
        Yeah definitely worth getting the view of another therapist. For someone like me with codependency issues, I would be quite triggered by such an overshare! It might just be inexperience, but I would imagine that boundaries are a massive part of the training.

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        1. I know that even with an EMDR therapist we are going to have to take time before the EMDR to work on stability and building rapport, I’m totally okay with taking that time. I got the impression from therapist 1 that she didn’t think she could make enough time for me. But I think that was based on the assumption that I was going to be a time consuming boundary pusher.

          As for therapist 2, I definitely think it is inexperience, but I also feel like she is playing with fire in terms of boundaries. It gives me an unsettled feeling in my stomach when I think about it haha so maybe I am triggered by the whole thing.

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  3. First I want to say bravo for sticking up for yourself and knowing the kind of care you want and need. Yes Doctors are smart and well trained but no one knows us the way we know ourselves! I’ve also had to tell past therapists I do NOT want to take medication bc when I was on Zoloft I felt like a zombie and it didn’t help my anxiety at all. I work best with talk therapy. So continue to advocate for yourself and do what you feel is best.
    Second, I was uncomfortable with how much information this therapist told you. Im working towards a Social Work degree and she disclosed too much information. She could have helped you open up a different way. You don’t need to feel her anxieties and stresses on top of your own. I would be very careful if you choose to continue on with her. It’s obvious though you will do what is best for yourself so I’m sure whatever you choose will be right for you. xo

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  4. I would agree the level of self-disclosure by that therapist is problematic. I strongly believe that judicious self-disclosure on the therapist’s part can be therapeutic, but it seems like this therapist either has issues with boundaries or she hasn’t developed other strategies to establish rapport and elicit information. Regardless of what the underlying issue is, it definitely strikes me as a red flag.
    That’s an interesting question about who gets to say whether you’re stable enough for EMDR. In many ways you should, but at the same time a therapist isn’t going to do EMDR with you if they think it will do more harm than good, so it probably comes down to finding a therapist with the skill and confidence to contain anything that comes up in EMDR.
    I hope the Talkspace DBT goes well. DBT with 100% fidelity to Linehan’s model is pretty intense, and I really don’t see that as being realistic or necessary for everyone.

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    1. Thanks for replying. I guess what I really want is to feel like us deciding when to start the actual EMDR is a discussion, not just a unilateral decision. The stuff with C, I think, I kind of pushed me in that area, where now I’m really hypervigilant about exertion of power. Even if that isn’t exactly the case. I need to feel like I have a say.

      And thanks, so far the talkspace DBT has been a good experience. The therapist has been kind and accommodating, where needed.

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    1. They definitely confirmed my gut instincts. They are wise readers, indeed. I trust their perspectives. I know I can always count on honest feedback here.

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  5. to me, that is way too much disclosure, I had a t like that, it was really bad in the end, I know EMDR is a bit different though, some disclosure is good, but that is far too much IMO. EMDR is great, though. xxx

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    1. I always really like about your EMDR experiences. It gives me hope hearing from people who’ve gone through the process. I have seen such progress in most of the people who’ve done the work. I long for that kind of progress, whatever it takes to get there.

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      1. It is tough but with the right therapist a therapist skilled in EMDR training it can be done. I used to always think I’d hate EMDR, until I met Eileen. She proved to me that it really is a wonderful therapy. xxx

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        1. I feel better about having made an appointment with another one for Monday. I feel pretty confident the intern counselor wouldn’t quite be up to the task. What made you feel like it was the right choice with Eileen?

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          1. Well we talked about it for months before we actually tried it, it just felt like a lead has a background in nursing and she is very skilled and trauma informed I knew she knew what she was doing

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  6. Oh yeah, DEFINITELY way too much self-disclosure. A, my previous therapist knew I liked self-disclosure, that it made me feel better opening up, but she did it in a limited way. Like she would never have told me about cheating, relationship with mother, etc. That’s way too intimate.

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  7. just to echo everyone else, yeah, way too much self-disclosure, especially for a first session! i mean, there is wanting to put you at ease and build up trust and safety, but it actually just sounds like she relates to you a lot and kind of wants to be your bud. i feel like she is setting the groundwork for some intense counter-transference that she doesn’t seem able to deal with. this has been a big and weird problem with my therapist, and it’s really not fun. trust your gut! and good luck with EMDR! a number of my friends have used it and found it transformative, even after a few sessions — but again, you need a really good, strong and experienced therapist to take you to the depths of trauma. ❤

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I think that’s a good way of putting it, “setting the groundwork for some intense counter-transference.” I got the impression that this was just generally how she operated as a counselor, to go for the buddy route which makes me uncomfortable. I have friends; they’re fantastic. But they need to be distibguishable from my therapist. I definitely don’t want to have a paid for friend. Haha

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  8. Hi. I would be concerned that a therapist disclosing so many of her own issues is still dealing with them and this may color your own progress. It would frankly make me uncomfortable to know so much about my therapist (if I had one) so early in the relationship. It’s not exactly professional as far as I’m concerned. However, that’s just my opinion, and you know how opinions are…..

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