EMDR Therapy: Treatment for Trauma in Chicago

Ms. Ford has been fully trained in Eye Movement and Reprocessing / Desensitization Therapy.

closeup of a dandelion flower with dewdrops on itVanessa Ford has been fully trained in Eye Movement and Reprocessing / Desensitization therapy since 2006.  She has integrated these techniques into her mental health practice ever since.  Ms. Ford has thousands of hours of direct EMDR experience to draw upon, to help you.

EMDR offers a unique and innovative form of treatment that targets traumas that may become “locked” in the brain in an unhealthy way.  Trauma occurs when a person is under unusual stress.

Traditional traumas include sexual assault, childhood sexual or physical abuse, bullying, discovering a serious betrayal, domestic violence situation, accident, surviving a fire, and so forth.

EMDR can also be used for events that may not be seen as “traumatic” in the traditional sense but can have a corrosive effect on a person (such as a history of a lot of teasing in school, growing up with an alcoholic parent, acculturating to a new country as a child, sibling bullying, or ongoing childhood illness).

Current stressors we might not think of can also create trauma, such as during an illness, high-intensity work environments (CPD police, CFD fire department, medical, emergency room, paramedics), weird substance use experience, divorce, homophobic encounter, workplace bullying, or discrimination, “frenemy,” and partnering with someone who has a problem with addiction.

Living with ongoing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, etc. can also be targeted utilizing EMDR.

Sometimes, you and your therapist may decide that it isn’t the right time for EMDR treatment.  That’s okay, too.

Talk therapy and other counseling approaches may be a more gentle and approachable way to heal from painful past experiences.

How Can EMDR Help Me?

EMDR is an innovative form of treatment discovered by psychotherapist Francine Shapiro in 1987.  She discovered that rapidly moving the eyes back and forth (similar to what occurs during the REM phase of sleep) while processing a negative event helps a person become less upset and helps them better work through their difficulties.

Since then, EMDR has been further developed into a highly specialized form of therapy.

We now know that back-and-forth eye movements are not necessary to do EMDR.  Any bilateral stimulation will work just as well.  We will walk you through what method will work best for you.

You don’t have to present with a traditional “trauma” to benefit from EMDR.  This innovative approach can be adapted to many of the issues that therapy clients want help with.


Trauma is individually-defined.

Perhaps you still struggle with childhood abuse experiences. They happened so long ago, you might criticize yourself when you realize that they are still affecting you.

Or perhaps the traumatic experiences are still happening today- right now. You might be in an unhealthy relationship with a partner or family member. Dealing with the impact of someone else’s addiction for example can take a heavy toll.

Our team can help you understand and define how painful events have traumatized you.

Traumatic experiences can damage self-esteem.

Traumatic experiences can match up with our stereotype, such as a sexual assault, or they can be more subtle, such as a bullying experience or living with chronic homophobia or transphobia.

Other examples include living with a chronic illness or dealing with a painful loss.

Traumatic experiences can be very damaging to self-esteem, such as when someone forms negative beliefs about themselves or their environment as a part of that experience.

We may internalize these experiences over time.

Examples of negative self-talk include:

  • Excessive responsibility for your trauma. “I should have been able to stop it” or “it was my fault, I caused it.
  • Low self-esteem. “I’m a victim” (or a loser, a bitch, a sissy, etc.)
  • Traumatizing experiences can get overgeneralized. “I shouldn’t let my guard down and relax, it’s never safe.
  • Your internal dialogue might include: “I’m crazy” or “better show them they can’t mess with me- better safe than sorry.”
  • EMDR will revise your negative self-talk, into positive self-esteem.

Trauma makes you feel crazy or messed up.

Trauma reactions can make you feel crazy.  You may get triggered and overreact, and then wonder later why you got so worked up.

You might be so rational and mature normally, but that invisible trip-wire will make you seem like a totally different person. Your communication skills can go from respectful to angry in no time flat.

Or maybe you avoid people or situations, to protect yourself or others from the Jekyll & Hyde effect, or to prevent unwanted panic attacks.

Avoidance may become a routine way for folks with anxiety to manage their reactions.

You know this approach isn’t sustainable, but you don’t know a better way.

Perhaps you have lost trust in your ability to assertively communicate your needs in a healthy way. You avoid conflict, and then you blow up.

We can help.

Survivors of trauma tend to over-react to small triggers, and under react to dangerous situations.

We’ve seen it over and over again in our counseling practices.  Survivors of serious and pervasive trauma will lose it over the smallest thing- and then not blink an eye when something major happens. 

You may find you have a delayed reaction to things, or other people marvel at your ability to get through things. 

This is a wonderful survival skill but may work against you in normal life.  You might not be alert to warning signs in new situations or relationships, for example.  

EMDR and other trauma counseling will help you heal, so your reactions are proportionate and appropriate.

Trauma damages trust.

When you have been abused or betrayed or experienced a loss that caught you really off-guard, your worldview can shift in an instant. 

Trauma damages the ability to trust, safely and naturally. 

You may begin to feel: “The world is not a safe place” or “I can’t trust other people,” or “Something bad is about to happen.” 

This negative self-talk can begin to get so pervasive, you see it showing up in situations and relationships where it doesn’t belong. 

EMDR seeks to “unlock” these traumatic memories and allows psychotherapy clients undergoing this form of treatment to move towards healthy resolution and closure.

EMDR creates a mind-body connection.

Part of what makes EMDR so effective is that it does not just address your thoughts and feelings, as regular psychotherapy does, but creates a mind-body connection.  This is achieved by assisting you in combining your memories with how your body feels, what emotions you may have, what negative thoughts come up for you, how you view yourself, and what sensations you experience in your body as you remember these past experiences.

EMDR works by desensitizing you to past experiences, so that old memories no longer seem so upsetting.  EMDR also helps you move towards closure as you begin to think about your past and your place in it in a new way.

EMDR is a flexible and adaptable approach.

In an EMDR session, Ms. Ford or one of her associate counselors will use bilateral (using both sides of the body) stimulation to help you better access these events.

EMDR traditionally used back-and-forth eye movements, but it has now been discovered that any sort of back-and-forth stimulation, whether it is with your eyes, by tapping both sides of the body, or through tones that you listen to through headphones all work equally well.

We will explore which method will work best for you.

Other EMDR facts.

Please note: EMDR can work even when you may not fully remember what has happened to you!  In many cases, when a person undergoes a severely traumatic experience, they may not remember all or some of what has happened.

Prior to beginning an active EMDR process, Ms. Ford or one of her associate counselors will ask a lot of focused questions to get a sense of what negative or traumatic experiences you may have gone through, and how they may affect you today.

You should expect this assessment of you, and the experiences that still affect you to take several sessions at the very least.

EMDR can be alternated with traditional talk therapy methods, to speed healing.  Each therapy session, we will discuss how the session could best serve you that week.

EMDR can be used with children or adults.

Once a full history of your experiences has been gained, EMDR may be used to help “unlock” the harmful effects of this lingering memory or event.

EMDR might not be right for you.  You and your Chicago therapist will discuss what is the right trauma treatment to best serve your current needs after the initial assessment period is completed.

EMDR works seamlessly over remote telehealth.

Online remote EMDR, such as the “butterfly hug” method that allows you to tap yourself, or free smartphone apps such as EMDR kit has allowed our team to adapt to telehealth sessions effortlessly.

You need not risk your health or safety to get the treatment you need.  You can access EMDR therapy from the convenience of your own home.

These other resource pages should provide even more information about EMDR.