EMDR Therapy

A PATHWAY TO PROFOUND HEALING 

Woman in white shirt with low bun, finding therapy in serene setting.

RECLAIM

What is EMDR?

EMDR refers to Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. It is an integrative therapy approach that helps people metabolize distress that is related to disturbing memories, oftentimes trauma. Reprocessing does NOT mean reliving.

REVITALIZE

Healing Mind & Body with EMDR 

Fear, anxiety, depression, distress, and past traumas can have an immense toll on the brain and body. Perceived negative experiences can leave us feeling stuck, haunted by the past, or fearful of the future. This can affect your mood, appetite, energy levels, sleeping patterns, confidence, and overall sense of well-being.

EMDR therapy offers a path towards healing the whole self. It utilizes brain and body wisdom to effectively address any challenges you have faced. What’s even better is that it can be conducted effectively in the office or from the comfort of your home.

Let’s take back the power of being in the present moment and move towards living a full and vibrant life starting now.

Woman in white shirt with low bun, finding therapy in serene setting.

How Does EMDR Work?

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Bilateral Stimulation

Bilateral stimulation (BLS) serves as a powerful tool in expediting the brain’s ability to process and overcome distressing experiences. This therapeutic technique involves the rhythmic stimulation of the brain in a left-right pattern, typically achieved through visual, auditory, or tactile movements.

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Replicates Neurobiology

Drawing parallels to the natural processes of rapid eye movement (REM) during dream sleep, BLS encourages the brain’s various regions to collaborate in a synchronized manner. This collaborative effort aids in the reintegration of thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations associated with the troubling memory, fostering a more adaptive response. Just as REM sleep facilitates the consolidation and processing of memories during rest, BLS leverages similar mechanisms to promote healing and resolution while awake.

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Resource Development

In order to do EMDR, individuals need to develop skills to be able to  witness different channels of experience (e.g., energetic, imaginal, movement, emotional, sensation, visual, auditory). To explore these channels in a safe and secure way, we will add and build upon your skills and resources. The way we strengthen and build upon these skills is through drills. Some individuals may need more time building these skills and resources than others before they are ready to process a target. 

What is EMDR used for?

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Physical & Psychological Symptoms

By reprocessing traumatic memories and associated beliefs, EMDR can alleviate psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and intrusive thoughts and physical manifestations like insomnia, chronic pain, and heightened arousal. 

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Not Just for Trauma

Although EMDR therapy is widely known for its work with PTSD and trauma recovery, EMDR is not just for trauma. It is also used for anxiety, depression, OCD, phobias, performance enhancement and to address relational items such as unwanted limiting beliefs, old narratives, and unhelpful coping mechanisms learned in childhood.

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Rapid Outcomes

EMDR therapy is an empirically validated treatment approach with positive outcomes achieved without homework or the need to share detailed descriptions of disturbing events. Making this more an efficient treatment approach with a wide range of applications. 

 

How Does EMDR feel?

In EMDR therapy, you can expect to encounter a range of sensations and emotions. Initially, you might experience some discomfort or anxiety as traumatic memories are revisited. During the therapy session, you may feel intense emotions such as fear, sadness, or anger as you process these memories. You may also notice physical sensations like tension, increased heart rate, or changes in breathing patterns as the therapy progresses.

However, alongside these challenging experiences, you may also feel moments of relief, resolution, and empowerment as you work through your trauma. Overall, your experience of EMDR therapy can vary greatly, but it often involves a mixture of emotional, physical, and cognitive responses as you navigate your healing journey.

Catherine Alvarado Office
Catherine Alvarado Office Chair

Remember…

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Trust the process and your therapist, even during challenging moments.
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Openly and honestly communicate about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
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Have patience as healing from trauma takes time and progress may not always be linear.
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Prioritize self-care outside of sessions to help you manage the emotional toll of EMDR therapy.

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Utilize safety plans and communicate with your supports if you feel uncomfortable or in distress.

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Set realistic expectations for EMDR therapy process and what can be achieved in a single session.

 

My Role as Your Guide

As we begin reprocessing, the experience is similar to a guided free associative process. My role as your therapist is to be a guide, a navigator if you will, helping you process and release the thoughts, feelings, body sensations, images, or other associations of the traumatic experience, so your brain and body can let it go for good.

The brain is an organ like any other capable of healing itself. As the therapist, I don’t do the healing, your brain does. My role is to hold the space and give you the tools and support that enables you to make the journey, just like an orthopedic surgeon who sets a client’s leg. It’s not the surgeon who heals the leg, it’s your body that does the healing with the right support.

Therapy Couch
Beach Walk

STANDARD PROTOCOL

Map of 8 Phases of EMDR

1) history taking and treatment planning, 2) preparation, 3) assessment, 4) desensitization, 5) installation, 6) body scan, 7) closure, and 8) reevaluation

Phase 1 begins with gathering information about client history, current symptoms, and identifying memories or issues to address during intensives. Phase 2 lays the groundwork for reprocessing that occurs in subsequent phases, focusing on building safety and preparing clients for the work ahead. During Phase 3, clients are asked to briefly information about the target. “Reprocessing” begins in Phase 4. Clients are invited to focus on the information gathered in Phase 3 along with the BLS for several sets and see what happens next. 

If distress ratings reach 0 (no distress), clients are guided into installation of a positive belief (Phase 5). Once the positive belief is strong enough, clients will move onto Phase 6 body scan to reprocess any lingering disturbances in the body. We always leave time dedicated to closure (Phase 7) and to support returning to a calm, present state whether or not clients have finished moving through all the phases of EMDR. Integration sessions are used as part of Phase 8 to reevaluate previous targets and assess changes that may have occurred in between sessions.

“Although EMDR involves phases and a protocol, my first and foremost priority is supporting you. You are the captain of this ship – you will always have full control of pace, pauses, and what you want or don ’t want to share. “

– Cat

My EMDR Training

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Certified EMDR Therapist & Consultant-in-Training (CIT)

  • My journey with EMDR therapy began years ago when I tried the modality to address my own symptoms. In 2021 I completed basic training and since then I have become a Certified EMDR Therapist and Consultant-in-Training (CIT). 
  • You can learn more about EMDR therapy and levels of training on the Blogs.

EMDR Resources &  Research

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Resources to learn more about EMDR:

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Research in support of EMDR effectiveness:

  • Twenty-four randomized controlled trials support the positive effects of EMDR therapy in the treatment of emotional trauma and other adverse life experiences relevant to clinical practice.
  • Seven of 10 studies reported EMDR therapy to be more rapid and/or more effective than trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Twelve randomized studies of the eye movement component noted rapid decreases in negative emotions and/or vividness of disturbing images, with an additional 8 reporting a variety of other memory effects.
  • Numerous other evaluations document that EMDR therapy provides relief from a variety of somatic complaints.
  • Research and more frequently asked questions about EMDR

EMDR TESTIMONIALS

What People Are Saying

“I have worked with Cat as her Approved Consultant in her EMDRIA certification process. Cat has completed individual and group consultation sessions with me since she earned her EMDR Therapy Basic Training certificate in May 2021.

I also worked with Cat for some of her foundational consultation hours and I have been thoroughly impressed by her development as a therapist and as an EMDR practitioner over the past few years. Cat demonstrates a thorough understanding of EMDR Therapy and its theoretical foundation. She is competently able to apply EMDR Therapy techniques and combine them with other therapeutic approaches and techniques to meet the needs of individual clients. Cat is ethical in her approach and consistently seeks support and guidance from peers and consultants to ensure best clinical practices. She is open to feedback and committed to working on her own professional and personal development. I am confident that Cat will be an asset to the existing international community of EMDR Therapy clinicians.”

– ERIN KELLY, CERTIFIED EMDR THERAPIST & CONSULTANT –

“I have had the privilege of working closely with her over the past several years, and I have been consistently impressed with her exceptional skills, professionalism, and dedication to her clients’ well-being.

Catherine has demonstrated a profound understanding of trauma therapy and its impact on individuals. She possesses a comprehensive knowledge of the theoretical foundations and practical applications of EMDR therapy. Her expertise in using this evidence-based approach to treat trauma-related disorders is truly commendable. She is proficient in conducting thorough assessments, formulating treatment plans, and implementing interventions that are tailored to meet the unique needs of each client.

One of Catherine’s greatest strengths is her ability to establish a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship. Her warm and compassionate demeanor instantly puts clients at ease, creating an environment conducive to healing and growth. She actively listens to her clients, validates their experiences, and provides unwavering support throughout the therapeutic journey.

Catherine also demonstrates exceptional clinical skills during EMDR sessions. She exhibits a deep understanding of the EMDR protocol and utilizes it effectively to help clients process and resolve traumatic memories.

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend Catherine as an EMDR therapist. Her exceptional skills, genuine empathy, and unwavering commitment to her clients makes her an invaluable asset to any therapy clinic or organization. I am confident that she will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of those she serves.”

– DR. KELLY MOTHNER, HERMOSA BEACH THERAPIST –

“I have had the privilege of working alongside Catherine for several years, and during this time, I have witnessed her exemplary skills in utilizing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to facilitate profound healing and transformation in her clients. Catherine’s proficiency in EMDR therapy is truly commendable. She demonstrates a deep understanding of the therapeutic process and utilizes EMDR techniques with precision and effectiveness. Her clients consistently report significant improvements in their mental health and well-being as a result of her therapeutic interventions. Catherine’s dedication to staying updated on the latest developments in EMDR therapy further underscores her commitment to providing the highest quality of care to her clients.

In addition to her clinical expertise, Catherine exemplifies the highest standards of ethical practice. She approaches her work with integrity, compassion, and a steadfast commitment to upholding the confidentiality and dignity of her clients. Catherine’s ethical compass guides her decision-making process, ensuring that she always acts in the best interests of those under her care. Furthermore, Catherine’s professional character is exemplary. She is a collaborative and supportive team member, always willing to share her knowledge and expertise with colleagues. Her strong work ethic, reliability, and genuine concern for the welfare of others make her a trusted and respected member of our professional community.

In summary, I wholeheartedly recommend Catherine Alvarado, LMFT, for her outstanding utilization of EMDR therapy, unwavering commitment to ethical practice, and exceptional professional character. She is a dedicated therapist who consistently strives to empower her clients to achieve healing, growth, and resilience.

– ANTIGONI VASILOPOULOU, SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST –

EMDR THERAPY

Frequently Asked Questions

What is EMDR therapy?

EMDR therapy is a structured therapy that encourages the individuals to briefly focus on aspects of a target while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation. This therapy aims to reduce the vividness and emotional impact of these memories, promoting psychological healing and symptom relief.

How does EMDR therapy work?

EMDR therapy involves eight phases: history-taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation. During the desensitization phase, individuals focus on a target while following or engaging with bilateral stimulation. This process helps reprocess the target so it’s less distressing.

What conditions can EMDR therapy treat?

EMDR therapy is widely known for its use in treating trauma. It is also effective for other conditions such as anxiety, depression, phobias, panic disorders, and some cases of chronic pain.

How long does EMDR therapy take?

The length of EMDR therapy varies depending on the individual and the nature of their trauma. Some people may experience relief in a few sessions, while others may need more extensive treatment over several months.

Is EMDR therapy effective?

Research has shown that EMDR therapy is effective in reducing psychological and physical symptoms. It is recommended by several health organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization.

What happens during an EMDR session?

During an EMDR session, you will be guided you through a structured process that includes choosing a target, then briefly identifying negative beliefs, representative images, emotions, and body sensations. Bilateral stimulation is then added to help reprocess the target and distress. 

Are there any side effects?

Some individuals may experience heightened emotions or physical sensations during or after EMDR sessions. It’s important to discuss any concerns with your therapist, who can provide support and adjust the treatment as needed.

Scheduling EMDR Therapy

If you feel this approach could benefit you, connect with me so we can discuss further and determine next steps.