The process of "processing," which takes place in both the first and second steps, is the component that will likely look and feel the most strange to people who are considering EMDR for the first time. In order to stimulate different parts of the brain and reroute his thoughts, the patient briefly thinks or talks about the painful event or issue while different parts of the brain are "triggered." The triggering can happen as a result of periodic sets of eye movements, listening to headphone tones that oscillate from right to left, or from holding vibrating devices that alternate taps in each hand.
There is no way to get around the fact that this part of EMDR can feel a little hokey, in a carnival sideshow kind of way, for both patients and clinicians. "Strictly speaking, [EMDR] meets the criteria for an evidence-based treatment...[but still] I think just the notion of a therapist sitting in front of patient and waving a finger back and forth or using tappers is tough for a lot of therapists to accept, regardless of whether it is effective treatment," Jim Coyne, Ph.D., a clinical health psychologist and University of Pennsylvania professor wrote. "Personally, I would feel ridiculous doing this."
Because of the potential skepticism from patients, Chapman often suggests EMDR as an option to those who have failed with other types of therapies. "When someone can't get over an issue no matter what they have tried, has dreams or flashbacks, or can't move forward in life since an incident took place, then I think about using EMDR," she said, inferring that desperation can get people to a point where "they are willing to try this out."
Ironically, I believe the gimmicky-ness of EMDR was one thing that actually helped it succeed for me where other therapies failed to provide any emotional relief. In past individual and couples therapy sessions, I found myself to be defensive, constantly overanalyzing the therapist's questions and second-guessing most aspects of the treatment experience. But with EMDR I had to make a conscious decision to set aside my cynicism in advance.
Before starting treatments, I told myself, "I am going to make a conscious effort to buy into this because nothing else has worked, and my desire to move on is worth feeling a little out of my comfort zone." The decision to accept the EMDR process immediately shifted my attitude from one of doubt and disillusion to open-mindedness.
After deciding to trust the tappers' potential, I found that there were many benefits to EMDR over other forms of therapy. First, it does not require individuals to repeatedly discuss disturbing events, which can be a lengthy and painful—and sometimes even shameful—part of other treatments. Secondly, the therapist does less pointed question asking and more guiding, saying things like, "Think about this aspect of what happened," which made me feel more in control and comfortable. And lastly, EMDR also takes significantly less time to administer than traditional psychoanalytic or cognitive behavioral therapies.