Virtual EMDR Therapy Intensives Have Changed My Approach To Trauma Therapy: On Learning and Growing


Quite a few years ago, I learned about EMDR intensives through a podcast interview of Dr. Ricky Greenwald that a friend shared with me. I was intrigued and a bit flummoxed. Working with one person all day, for several days sounded, well, intense. For both therapist and client. However, Dr. Greenwald’s experiences’ and expertise really hit a nerve with me and I started digging for more information and looking for training.


In June of 2020, after much anticipation, I finally had an opportunity to attend a 6-day retreat training for trauma intensives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with Dr. Greenwald and the Trauma Institute. Well, you can all guess what happened to that highly anticipated experience…COVID CANCELED!


When this cancellation came through, I was at home, sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours, at a makeshift desk in my living room, holding sessions through telehealth, in between wiping down mail and groceries, isolated from family and friends—all things I had never imagined as a possibility in my life, let alone in my career.


Quite frankly, I was one of those therapists that thought telehealth sounded awful and could not wrap my brain around how I could possibly do EMDR therapy effectively through this modality. Also, I loved seeing clients in my office treehouse in Encinitas, CA, where I could walk to the beach on my breaks!


Fortunately, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve a client through telehealth due to accessibility needs in the winter of 2019/20. This client’s needs forced me to reckon with my preconceived notions about telehealth, work through my resistance, and do some research as to how to adapt EMDR therapy for telehealth just a few months before the shutdowns of March 2020. I was not only surprised by how successful the transition to telehealth was, but also how much I still felt connected energetically to my clients through video sessions.


Once I got over the shock and awe of my whole practice going online in one swoop, as well as the rapid change and fear we were all experiencing in the first few months of the pandemic, I started to feel like I might even like telehealth. And soon, I started to love it.


Prior to COVID-19’s arrival, I had already begun to experiment with the therapy intensive format with current clients and continued to do so through that first year of the pandemic. I was amazed by how much could be accomplished by just extending a session to 2 hours. Even more, I was ecstatic with what I was witnessing when a client and I had 3 to 5 hours to work with in a day. For some of my clients, an EMDR intensive provided enough space to fully process several painful experiences and arrive at profound new learning and relief that the traditional weekly format of therapy had not provided enough time or safety to reach. Some clients were able to meet goals in one day that would have usually taken 4-6 weeks to achieve.


These experiences had me invigorated and rethinking the entire way we practice trauma therapy. But, without formal training in the intensive model and given we were collectively in the middle of unprecedented uncertainty, I was not ready to fully make the leap into the intensive format with my practice in 2020.


In January of 2021, I finally had the opportunity to attend the Trauma Institute intensive training. Except, it had to be online! Initially, I was very disappointed. I assumed it would be a diminished experience, and I wanted my mountain air and lakeside walks I had dreamed of to accompany the deep learning experience. Once again, I was surprised. The Trauma Institute managed to cultivate a warm, intimate learning space, with an amazing group of EMDR therapists. Not only was it revolutionary for my perspective on how to provide care and run my business, it was also a delightful, connected experience with the colleagues I met in the training - and personally healing.


I left the training electrified, and thrilled to know from first hand experience how to provide a healing space online in an intensive format. I immediately began the process of moving the practice to the EMDR Intensive format. Since then, I have continued ongoing training and professional consultation with Kambria Evans, LMFT. I’ve also collaborated with other esteemed colleagues to learn from each other's experiences and cultivate our approach in the intensive model.


Beginning in January 2022, our transition to offering therapy intensives exclusively was fully completed. And, as of April, we finally have a website that reflects this shift in how we practice!


Change is scary, challenging, and overwhelming at times, but it has been totally worth it! Our ability to respond to clients’ in urgent need with rapid, specialized care has been incredibly rewarding. We also immensely enjoy meeting clients in their motivation for change and witnessing their progress accelerate over days and weeks, rather than months and years.


Telehealth has allowed us to open up access to clients throughout California and what a delight it has been to serve clients throughout the state and collaborate with colleagues in so many different regions. One of the most exciting opportunities has been the ability to serve clients located in communities that do not have access to EMDR therapy intensives nearby.


Starting this summer, we will also be licensed to serve clients throughout the state of Washington! I’m so excited to meet the need in this beautiful state.


We hope you’ll find answers to most of your questions about EMDR intensives throughout the website. If you have any additional questions we’d love to hear them and will do our best to respond. Please share them in the comments below or send them to hello@annerobershaw.com.


In solidarity,

Annie

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