Nonverbal therapies are fascinating and effective. Going beyond talk therapy, modalities such as EMDR, Brainspotting, somatic work and yoga tap into our bodies and the memories they store. The healing potential when nonverbal therapies are correctly utilized is vast.
Many clients come to The Viva Center eager to begin nonverbal work and are hopeful about the healing results they will experience. Our team of clinicians has witnessed the power of these modalities time-and-time again. So they are also hopeful and humbled by the opportunity to apply them with a new client.
As nonverbal therapies bring our full bodies into each session, sometimes clients are surprised by the intensity, pace, or process they experience. I sat down with our EMDR-trained clinician Kristen Moyer to provide this guide on what to expect while engaging in nonverbal therapy.
Your pace and path = Your pace and path
“With EMDR especially, some clients come in thinking it will be a quick fix that reduces all of their symptoms,” shares Kristen. “While brain- and body-based therapies can facilitate healing more quickly than talk therapy, this does not necessarily mean that symptoms will be taken away within a few sessions.”
It is important to begin EMDR with the knowledge that this modality is an evidence-based, effective healing tool that helps you engage with your unique nervous system.
“Every brain is different. So how someone heals from trauma depends on how their brain heals,” Moyer notes. Many individuals are referred to our practice by a friend or colleague with a success story. As they begin their own journey with EMDR or Brainspotting, they experience first-hand how their system responds to these therapies.
For some people, traumatic memories can be cleared during focused intensives, or a few weeks of treatment. For some, healing takes months or up to years of applied therapies.
Cultivate Tools for Self-Compassion
Nonverbal therapies facilitate effective and variable paces and processes for healing. Because of this, self-compassion and tools for coping outside of therapy sessions are essential.
Identifying core beliefs is central to nonverbal work. “In EMDR, one of the things we look for are ‘blocking beliefs,’ i.e. ‘I don’t deserve to feel better,’ or ‘I am never going to heal from this,’” Kristen shared.
For many clients, this is the first step. By addressing the core beliefs that stem from our wounds, we know what material we are working with and we have a better idea of how to heal.
Challenging a blocking belief such as “I don’t deserve to feel better,” requires self-compassion. Some clients struggle to give themselves care and forgiveness at the beginning of nonverbal work.
Sometimes, the first step is helping them to see that the act of showing up, of saying “I want to begin,” is enough. This is evidence that self-compassion is onboard.
Cultivate Tools for Coping
Because nonverbal therapy brings our whole bodies into the work, our systems’ processing does not end when a session comes to close.
We know this and prepare our clients by resourcing with them. Resourcing is the process of identifying and developing coping and calming techniques that an individual can utilize when overwhelmed, disoriented, experiencing distress, or general anxiety.
Grounding techniques that engage us with our five senses, meditation, pets, breathing, drawing, and mindfulness exercises are just a few examples of resources. What works as a resource differs from person-to-person. So identifying and engaging with resources is another primary step.
“Clients can be eager to dive right in and want to do the work. They understandably want to feel better,” Moyer shared. “Resourcing is the first step in this work so that the nervous system has the tools it needs while engaging in immersive healing”.
Telehealth and Nonverbal Therapy
An increasing number of people are utilizing virtual therapy options. The COVID-19 pandemic led us all to transition to this platform and many individuals are finding it works best with their lifestyles.
As a practice that specializes in these advanced brain- and body-based modalities, we often get asked if they are truly effective when facilitated virtually.
We are so happy to share that the answer is yes! EMDRIA, the International EMDR Association shares, “that research is beginning to support what EMDR therapists are seeing in their practice: good clinical outcomes.”
Kristen is one of our clinicians who sees clients fully in a virtual format and practices EMDR. “I have clients who do EMDR work on their cell phones and progress has been made!”
The adaptability of science and of the human brain’s capacity to heal continues to amaze us.