EMDR Therapy Interview

Dr. Christine McIlwain is an expert in the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), having done her doctorate on this intervention.

She facilitates our client’s recovery by providing EMDR treatment which effectively re-processes trauma events so that the destructive effects of trauma are reduced or totally diminished. EMDR is the #1 treatment intervention for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and now the most researched therapeutic intervention.

Right Brain, Left Brain

Christine explains that individuals who continually relive and suffer the memories of traumatic events are being “retriggered” by these memories that are stored in the right side of the brain where the emotions are stored. The right side of the brain is the area of the brain where emotions, creativity, music, movement, and art come forth from.

After the EMDR therapy, the memories of the traumatic experience are reprocessed by the brain and re-stored on the left side of the brain. The left side of the brain is the logical, functional side of the brain, the executive functioning side, from which we make our decisions from. The trauma and anxiety associated with the traumatic events are “processed out” by the brain (a neurobiological event) and the individual then perceives the event with little or no emotion as something that merely just “happened to them.”

Per Dr. Amen’s “brain spec scans” there is actually a reduction of the storage of “anxiety” in the brain as one can see when viewing the scans of someone with PTSD.

The EMDR Process

Christine went on to explain that she prepares for the EMDR treatment (which has 8 steps in its protocol) by asking questions and taking an in depth history to determine if the person is a candidate for EMDR and to identify the traumatic events that a person has experienced.

Christine uses the Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale (SUD’s) (part of the 8 phase protocol) to determine how much the memory of the event is stressing the individual. She asks questions to discover the deeper meaning of what the episode really means to the person. This initial process helps Christine (and the client) better understand the level of stress or disturbance that is associated with the memory. Sometimes, the pain that an individual feels in remembering an experience in their past is because the event is similar to or connected to many other painful memories and experiences.

During the EMDR session, Christine uses tapping (bilateral stimulation) on the knees or hands which is part of the 8 phase protocol. Christine continues to interact with the client by asking questions about the traumatic experiences. The EMDR session can be an emotional and “transforming” experience for the person receiving the therapy. This is constructive because the brain is “re-processing” the memory and reducing the negative emotions that once had the power to negatively influence and impact the individual.

At the end of the EMDR session, Christine asks the individual to re-rate how disturbing the event feels to them (re-administering the SUD’s) on the scale from “0” being no disturbance to “10” being the highest disturbance they can imagine. After a successful EMDR session the individual will report that the event seems insignificant and it was simply just “something that happened” to them. The brain has re-processed the trauma event and the memory is then stored on the left side of the brain with the client reporting the memory as now just a “picture” or “story” without the negative emotional arousal. The client then experiences emotional freedom from the traumatic event thus enabling them to move on with their lives.

Who is a candidate for EMDR?

Many clients in our treatment programs take advantage of the EMDR therapy that Dr. Christine McIlwain offers. Clients in our women’s treatment program, The Rose, all work with Christine. Both men and women who suffer from the memory of traumatic events are candidates for EMDR therapy. EMDR has also been proven to be effective for individuals who suffer from:

  • Panic attacks
  • Complicated grief
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Phobias
  • Pain disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Depression

More about Dr. Christine McIlwain, Ed.D, MFT

Dr. Christine McIlwain, Ed.D, MFT is a highly regarded therapist who practices in Newport Beach, CA and serves the greater Orange County area and beyond.