Exploring EMDR Therapy, with Christie Pearl Ep. 42
- Episode Topic:
In this captivating episode of Mastering Counseling, we delve into the world of EMDR therapy with the accomplished Christie Pearl, a Certified EMDR therapist, and EMDRIA-approved consultant. The focus is on EMDR Intensives tailored for Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families, shedding light on how this unique therapeutic approach empowers individuals struggling with work stress and performance anxiety. Christie’s expertise lies in fostering transformative healing journeys, allowing clients to break free from the shackles of past trauma, creating healthier relationships with work, and embracing their present identity and aspirations.
- Lessons You’ll Learn:
Listeners can expect to gain profound insights into the collaborative nature of EMDR therapy, redefining it as an active and empowering process within the therapeutic relationship. Christie shares poignant case studies illustrating the emotional well-being and professional growth achieved through her approach. Moreover, she emphasizes the importance of healthy professional boundaries and the value of therapists practicing what they teach, contributing to a nurturing and empowering therapeutic environment.
- About Our Guest:
Christie Pearl is a distinguished Certified EMDR Therapist and EMDRIA Approved Consultant with extensive experience in private practice. Her passion lies in providing transformative EMDR Intensives for Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families, guiding individuals toward emotional resilience, self-discovery, and personal growth. Christie’s commitment to ongoing learning and personal development shines through in her collaborative and client-centered therapeutic approach.
- Topics Covered:
- The episode covers various aspects of EMDR therapy, from its collaborative and client-centered nature to the integration of personal experiences and advanced training. Christie sheds light on the challenges and strategies of navigating professional boundaries, ensuring a conducive therapeutic environment. The episode concludes with insights into the future of EMDR therapy and Christie’s vision for expanding its impact within the counseling community, offering transformative healing services to those seeking emotional well-being.
Our Guest: Christie Pearl’s Commitment to EMDR Transformation
Christie Pearl is a Certified EMDR Therapist and an EMDRIA-approved consultant with a passion for transforming lives through her private practice. With extensive training and experience, she specializes in EMDR Intensives for Adult Children of Alcoholics and individuals from dysfunctional families. Christie’s therapeutic approach involves creating a collaborative healing process, empowering clients to navigate past trauma and emotional constraints. She believes in the importance of integrating advanced training and personal experiences into her practice to offer tailored and compassionate support.
Christie’s commitment to the well-being of her clients extends to the establishment and maintenance of healthy professional boundaries within her private practice. Recognizing the significance of personal growth, she advocates for ongoing learning and development for therapists. As a podcast guest, Christie shares her insights into the transformative impact of EMDR therapy, emphasizing its role in fostering empowerment, resilience, and emotional healing. With a clear vision for the future of EMDR therapy, Christie aims to expand her reach within the counseling community, providing accessible and transformative healing services.
Listeners will discover Christie as a dedicated professional who practices what she teaches, emphasizing the value of personal growth and healing in creating a nurturing and empowering therapeutic environment. Through her work, Christie aims to contribute to a future where individuals can free themselves from the constraints of past trauma, achieve self-discovery, and experience enhanced emotional well-being.
Becky Coplen: Hello! We are so excited today to have Christie Pearl come and join us and share about EMDR therapy as well as EMDRIA, which is a whole lot of letters. Christie and we’re going to get into all of that. Thank you so much for being on the show today.
Christie Pearl: Thank you so much for having me, Becky. I’m really happy to be here.
Becky Coplen: From looking at your website, I know you have so much training and you’ve been working in this business for several years. And so we’re really fortunate to get to hear about your wealth of knowledge and how it is transforming people’s lives. But with all of those abbreviations, EMDR, which people might be a little more familiar with, but then also EMDRIA. So go ahead and share with us about EMDR therapy and the difference between EMDRIA.
Christie Pearl: Sure. Yeah, I know that’s a lot of letters. So EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it’s a mouthful. And essentially EMDR is an approach to trauma therapy. it’s what we would call a bottom-up approach, meaning most people who may be familiar with therapy might be familiar with talk therapy, which is what we would call a top-down approach. And top-down vs bottom-up means how we are getting at the material that we’re wanting to work with. So essentially, top-down means when we engage in talking, in talk therapy, we’re lighting up the part of our brain that has cognition and language and rationality where our thinking brain. And with EMDR and other bottom-up approaches, EMDR isn’t the only one. But with a bottom-up approach like EMDR, we are going in through more of our unconscious mind, our implicit mind from the bottom-up, which means we’re going into the parts of our brain, or we’re accessing the parts of our brain that hold implicit material. It’s the parts of our brain that are unconscious. It’s more body-based. And so we have different kinds of awareness. And most people, when they think of memory, they’re talking about the thinking brain memory.
Christie Pearl: Oh, I remember when that happened. Because I have words, I have a picture in my mind of that experience. I have words to describe it. So that’s what most people are talking about when they talk about memory. But what the latest research in trauma and attachment tells us is that we have other kinds of memory. We have body memory, we have emotion memory. So the rest of our brain sort of gets left out in talk therapy. We light up the brain with the cognitive piece, but we don’t actually do anything with it, which is why talk therapy for trauma is incomplete. It’s often insufficient. We’ve got to get at where that trauma actually lives, which is in the body, in the emotion, the other parts of the brain. And then help them all kind of consolidate and link up. So we’re not we never want to leave out the thinking brain, but we want to bring up the other aspects of our body mind’s way of knowing things. We want to bring that up from implicit memory into explicit, meaning we can now see it and think about it and talk about it, and then allow those to blend together, to bring things to resolution. We can’t bring trauma to resolution by just talking about it, because we’ve been lighting up the thinking brain without allowing there’s a whole lot more to that experience that’s living in a different part of our brain. So EMDR in a nutshell, helps us access all of that and bring it to resolution, help you bring to resolution today something that your system could not bring to resolution at the time because it was too overwhelming. And that’s the definition of trauma, something that we can’t integrate, we can’t consolidate into our experience in an adaptive way because it’s too overwhelming. So I know that might be a long answer, but that is, in a nutshell, what EMDR is. It’s a way of working with the brain, with all of the parts of the brain. So in a nutshell, EMDR helps us access all of the material so we can take the part that’s in our thinking brain, along with the implicit material that’s in our emotional memory, in our body memory. And we can consolidate that and bring that to resolution. We can help the person bring that experience or pattern of experience to resolution in a way that they couldn’t at the time because, by definition, the experience was too overwhelming.
Becky Coplen: Thank you. I know you said it was a long answer, but a long scientific study on that needs a long answer, and I find it personally fascinating. So thank you for breaking that down. And I’m an elementary school counselor, and we talk often with teachers about triggers and things like that. And it’s like trying to help people understand the child may not even know why they are freaking out over something to us that isn’t important or wouldn’t seem like it would bother them. And colors, smell so many things. So, there’s so much there. And then just if you can add on a little to EMDRIA. Is there a little bit of difference in that or talk to us about that for a little bit?
Christie Pearl: Yeah. I’m happy to clarify that. So EMDRIA is simply the EMDR International Association. So EMDRIA, as we kind of call it, is the governing body of the practice of EMDR. So it’s the international association that certifies EMDR clinicians. I am a certified EMDR therapist. So there are, requirements that you have to fulfill, just like for our license in general when we go on to specialize in a certain modality, there’s often a governing body and association that then certifies your work in that area. And so the EMDR International Association is that governing body. And it’s also the research center. It’s our professional association, just like I have my professional associations as a counselor, the EMDRIA is my EMDR professional association, so very much involved in research, in training, in education, public awareness about EMDR. So it’s sort of our home base as EMDR clinicians.
Becky Coplen: Okay. Thank you. That makes so much sense. And that just makes me think because a lot of our listeners are considering going into the field of counseling or mental health. Can you talk to us since you’re part of that group, is this something they would be certified in a university program, Master’s, or is it? Talk to us about where you can be trained to that. Is it very accessible or is it like a special training through your governing agency?
Christie Pearl: So I went to graduate school a long time ago.
Becky Coplen: So I did as well.
Christie Pearl: So I don’t feel super up to date on what is being taught now. I mean, we’re going back, let’s see, 20 years for me. So I, unless something drastic has changed, sort of doubt that, the graduate training has caught up to where the counseling field in general is in terms of approaches, top-down, bottom-up. If someone knows different, let me know, because I would love to be proven wrong on that. I would love to have more trauma-informed, education. But that being said, graduate school is graduate school. You’ve got a lot of basic skills to learn. And trauma in general is something that you probably come to specialize in later. , the graduate school can’t cover everything. So trauma is in, even setting aside EMDR for a second, the particular approach you’re going to take in your modality, trauma in general is an area of specialty. So I wouldn’t expect that to really be covered in a meaningful way. In a graduate program, you might get some experience in your practicum or your fellowship or things like that. But so I don’t think EMDR is really being covered in graduate programs. But again, if anyone think, is more knowledgeable on that than me, let me know. later, after you graduate, you would then decide what is your area of practice going to be. And for many people, they might find themselves dealing with trauma. We’re all working with people with trauma, whether we want to or not, because trauma is sadly ubiquitous. So whether you specialize in trauma or not, you’re going to be working with people who have experienced trauma. But if you want to specialize in that, then that’s something you would choose to do later. And in terms of getting trained in EMDR, I mean, I would love for everybody to be trained in EMDR or any other of the bottom-up approaches. So in terms of training, it’s important to know and make a good decision about where you’re getting trained. There are so many trainings out there. I will say that ENDRIA, the international association certifies trainings. And so it’s important if you’re wanting to become certified in EMDR, it would be important to choose a training that is approved by the Association. So there are a lot of choices out there. There are a lot of different, trainings offered. It is a big commitment. So the training to become EMDR, even just basic training. So maybe it would be helpful if I just described the levels. So let’s say you finished grad school, you’ve got your master’s, maybe you’ve worked towards your license or you’re working towards your license. You certainly don’t have to wait until you’re licensed to get trained. So I think that is also important. But so the levels of EMDR proficiency would start with basic training, and it’s a 40-hour training. It’s a big commitment both time-wise and financially. So that’s basic training basically teaches you, it’s just that it’s basic. It teaches you the standard EMDR protocol. And so many people take that training and come out of there feeling like you just got firehosed with information. And I think a lot of people feel it’s kind of like mind blown, because it’s so different than anything you’ve learned or if you’ve even if you’ve been practicing for a while, it’s so different from what you’ve been doing as a talk therapist. So it’s is a complete shift in the way you think about working. And that can be really exciting. It can be overwhelming. And it’s probably a little bit of both. So when you do your basic training, you’re also doing a few hours of consultation with someone like me who is, I’m in addition to being certified, I’m a consultant, so I’ll explain that in a minute. so you’re getting a little bit of supervision around starting to use the model. And then you can go on from there. And really, if you are going to be using EMDR in your practice, this is my opinion. I think it’s important to go on from there because basic training is just that. It’s basic. So EMDR started out as a symptom relief model. Someone had experienced a trauma and they had experienced a shock trauma. So something happened to them, like let’s say like a car accident or a natural disaster, like someone experienced a flood or there was an event that they were experiencing symptoms from. And so EMDR, the standard protocol, started as a symptom relief approach to that something bad happened to you. And we can use this model to relieve the symptoms. Bring that experience to resolution like I talked about earlier. So that was the origin of EMDR therapy. And that is what’s taught in basic training. And a lot of people don’t understand this. So in basic training, you’re taught the basic protocol for symptom relief. But as we know that is not enough for working with people with complex trauma. Because complex trauma is what brings most people to therapy. Not all, but anyone coming to trauma therapy is likely coming because they haven’t just had one overwhelming experience. They have had a childhood, a pattern of not just bad things that happened to them, but good things that didn’t happen. So we’re talking about attachment trauma here. Most of the time, symptom relief doesn’t work for attachment trauma because you can’t target something that’s not there.
Becky Coplen: Yeah.
Christie Pearl: So if we are going to use EMDR in psychotherapy as an approach and not just as a technique that I whip out when I want to relieve symptoms on something, then we have to go beyond basic training. We have to do advanced work and learning how to use the model in a more sophisticated way that we can fold into our overall approach as a psychotherapist, as a therapist, as a counselor. And so basic training doesn’t teach you that. And it can’t. Again, basic training is basic. So for people who want to go on and really become proficient in using EMDR, in therapy, with people with complex trauma, then certification is the next level, which means you’re doing additional training, you’re doing advanced training, you’re getting additional consultation, meaning your work is being evaluated, that you understand how to use the model. And so that’s sort of the next level and then the next level up from that, which is the level “I am is consultant”, which means you’ve been certified and now you’ve had further training, further evaluation, and you’re now providing consultation to others who are wanting to learn how to do that. So that’s yeah, maybe more information than you wanted about.
Becky Coplen: No, I think it’s great. I think we have not covered any of this in any of the shows. So I think it’s very good. And I think for people maybe beginning, middle, end of their graduate school, I’m sure the term is at least being tossed out as like something to reach out for in the future. So very helpful. So thank you for clarifying that. Let’s talk about your clients a bit. Not specifically, obviously, But you specifically try to work with adult children of alcoholic homes or alcoholic parents, or maybe just dysfunctional families in general. So just talk about that. Like, how do they find you? What are some patterns you’re seeing? Let’s hear about that.
Christie Pearl: Yeah. Well, some people find me because they identify as ACoA. So that Adult Child of Alcoholic is sort of an acronym that is meaningful to some people who, it’s actually a 12-step community. So there is actually a 12-step ACoA world, that acronym, ACoA has meaning for people who are connected with that and who obviously have the awareness.
Becky Coplen: Right. This isn’t how all homes are.
Christie Pearl: Yeah. And so that term is meaningful to some people. And so some people find me because that term is meaningful to them. And it’s not like I’m speaking their language. So other people don’t necessarily identify with that acronym. They might not even know that the experiences they’re struggling with are related to their childhood or their having a parent with alcohol. And then other people, I think it’s important to know that you might not have had a parent with alcoholism, but you could still be experiencing the same symptoms, the same, patterns in your life with other types of family of origin, dysfunctional relationship patterns. And so, maybe it might not be addiction, but maybe it’s a really perfectionist parent or maybe there was extreme punishment. Maybe there was emotional, repression. Maybe there was the common denominator is really any experience in family of origin where there’s emotional abandonment. There might be chaos. You might have a narcissistic parent, for example. You might have parents with other types of mental illness who, for whatever reason, are not emotionally available to you. So this definitely falls in the category of some of those good things that don’t happen enough. The nurturing you didn’t get, the protection you didn’t get if your parent can’t care for you. So I like to say that we’re not all children of alcoholics, but most of us are ACoAs because most of us have experienced some kind of emotional abandonment. Many of us have, at the very least. So any early family experience that results in, in a sense of, being emotionally abundant, not having the caregiving that any child would need to have emotionally and sometimes physically as well. So that is how people find me. Some people find me because they are interested in EMDR. Some people find me because they want to do intensive work as opposed to traditional therapy. So people find me for different reasons.
Becky Coplen: Okay. When I was looking at your website and you were talking about maybe different people, you could help. There was some themes in there about the clients you would have whatever they were dealing with in their childhood and then now applying it, and they’re experiencing trouble and extreme stress at work, or they’re trying to be perfect. Can you talk about some of the patterns or things that people carry with them into their adult life? And if and maybe there’s listeners who are like, oh! Maybe this is what I’m dealing with.
Christie Pearl: Yeah. So whatever our experiences when we are young, whatever is happening around us in our caregiving environment, in our relationship environment, we have to adapt to that. So if I have a parent who’s struggling with addiction, they’re likely not available emotionally to me. Maybe they’re even scary sometimes. There’s probably some unpredictability. Those are some pretty common themes. And so as a child, you have to adapt to that. And we all make these adaptations, so I might adapt by beginning to really stuff my feelings because it’s clear. And this is back to that implicit mind. This is not an explicit thought that any child has. But you learn. You learn that the grown-ups around me can’t manage my feelings. They’re too preoccupied with themselves. So I’m just going to stuff my feelings and try to be as best a little person as I can so that I don’t cause them any problems.
Becky Coplen: Right.
Christie Pearl: And so that’s an example of an adaptation. And we take these adaptations and they kind of can take on a life of their own and we take them into our adult lives unless we do work on them, unless we bring them into our explicit awareness. And so in adulthood, if I’ve got that adaptation of I stuffed my feelings and I try to be as good as I can and not cause anybody any problems, then in adulthood, that’s probably going to result in you not getting your needs met. Because if you’re struggling to communicate your needs, if you’re trying not to cause anybody around you any problems, you’re probably struggling with assertiveness. You’re struggling with getting your needs met. And at work, people are shocked often to realize that the same patterns they’re having a hard time with at home are the same ones that they’re having a hard time with at work. People sometimes have this magical thinking that you don’t take your personal issues to work with you. But we do. So if you have trouble getting your needs met at home, chances are you have trouble with that at work as well. And so that can start to look like, some overachieving, some always raising your hand. I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Picking up the slack for other people, kind of running from one thing to the next, jamming your schedule, trying to fit it all in, trying to be good enough. And again, these are sort of the unconscious drivers of our behavior. You probably know you’re doing it but can’t seem to stop doing it. And that’s the place that often brings people to therapy is, I know what I’m doing but I can’t seem to stop doing it. So there’s this conflict on the inside. Like what I say I want is to to be able to take more time off and actually relax when I’m at home or take a vacation without feeling guilty about it or say no when for the hundredth time this week somebody asks me to do something for them. I say I want to do those things but I can’t seem to do it. And that’s where we sit when we’ve got a conflict between the adult part of us that knows like I’d really like to be able to take a vacation and not feel guilty about it. But those implicit drivers, those old adaptations that are baked into our nervous system from childhood are compelling us to keep doing the same thing over and over, which is overdoing. Does that make sense?
Becky Coplen: Absolutely. It brings it brings many names to mind for all those different reasons I think most people who work or anyone who’s alive, you’re seeing people around you dealing with those kinds of things. So I did want to ask you with the complexity of the issues that you’re helping people with, and meeting people where they’re at, What are some of the, I don’t know if I like the word barrier, I think boundary, but professional boundaries that you even have for yourself in being able to put your best foot forward, helping people with these very deep issues, which I’m sure are often incredibly sad. And then how our guests. Are you taking care of yourself? and even you seem like very logical to me, but logically planning to say this is where I have to cut things off. These are the times I’m open for clients. All of those things.
Christie Pearl: Yeah. I really appreciate that you’re asking this question because I think it belongs in every conversation when we’re talking about therapists doing their work. And I am more than happy to talk about boundaries because my practice can only be as healthy as I am. So if I am not healthy, my work will suffer. My practice cannot be healthy. In terms of the things that you’re naming. My boundaries, the times I work, the times I don’t work, the times I respond to client emails, the times I don’t respond to client emails. So I think that as therapists, our field has a lot of baggage around this. Our mental health field has its own trauma history. And we are taught to sacrifice at our own expense. We are literally taught that probably anyone listening to this, myself included, was told in grad school, explicitly and implicitly, through kind of messaging that I needed to sacrifice myself for this work. And I reject that just wholly. Wholeheartedly, I reject that. And I actually think that it just, I can’t wrap my head around how that makes any sense, because if I am required to sacrifice myself for my work, then we’ve got problems. I am not modeling healthy boundaries for my clients, and I am probably not well. But I mean, we know this is the stereotype of the exhausted, overworked, overbooked therapist. Even in private practice when we are in control. I am in control. But how many of us repeat our own trauma patterns, both our personal trauma history and the baggage that we learned in grad school and beyond? So the therapists I work with, I really work to help them decide what they want for themselves. And so I think that, in terms of boundary issues, I think doing your own work if you are not doing your own personal therapy, and it doesn’t mean you have to be in therapy all the time, but you have to do your own work, you have to have done your own work, and it’s an ongoing process. Maybe you notice something coming up between you and a client and it’s pushing some buttons for you. So maybe I go to my therapist then and we do a piece of work on that. I kind of lean into that. What’s that about? What’s coming up for me around that? We’ve all got blind spots. So I’m a big believer in ongoing learning, ongoing development personally and professionally. So I think we have to do our own personal work, number one. And number two, we have to have good policies in place. We have to be really clear about what are the expectations.
Becky Coplen: Right.
Christie Pearl: And I feel like over the course of my practice, I’m sort of periodically revising my policies based on experience. So something will happen and then that will kind of tell me, oh! I need to make that more clear in my policy. So it’s it’s not a set it and forget it by any means. But I think we have to have clear policies and set expectations from the beginning and then follow through. And again, my practice is only as healthy as I am. So if I am not respecting my own boundaries, then my clients probably won’t either.
Becky Coplen: Right. yes. I feel like on the last ten episodes we’ve heard that a lot. Like, not that it would be bad if a therapist or coach is in therapy all the time, but definitely going in for those for a specific thing they want to work on. And I like how you broke it down, even knowing a certain type of client. Maybe it’s a certain time of year, that’s more difficult. And going and being proactive on that until you’re not waiting until you’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and back into your old implicit habits.
Christie Pearl: Absolutely. I could not agree more.
Becky Coplen: Well, we’ve talked a lot today about so many great things. Is there anything that you feel like you really want us to know about your practice or part of the group? I’m not going to try. And actually, no, I am going to try and say it. ENDRIA. Did I say it right?
Christie Pearl: Yeah. ENDRIA.
Becky Coplen: Any other things that you feel like you’d really want our listeners to know if they’re considering this field or in the middle of their studies?
Christie Pearl: Yeah. Well, like I said earlier, I would love for everyone to get trained in EMDR, and I’m not a trainer, so I have no skin in that game. But I think that there is tremendous value in that work, both for ourselves and for our clients, because I’ve done talk therapy and I’ve done EMDR therapy. And I wish I had had EMDR therapy a lot earlier in my life. I think if I had had a good EMDR therapist back in my 20s, like things could have been pretty different. I had really good talk therapists back in my 20s. So there’s value in that. But I think that really to be able to heal, I just invite people to be curious about trying something different, trying something new, and being ready to really evolve beyond, talking about it, thinking about it, and more towards actually being able to heal because this world needs healing more than ever. So we’ve got to be healed. We’ve got to be healed ourselves, and then we’ve got to be able to really hold that space, for other people in a meaningful way.
Becky Coplen: Very inspiring for sure, and a lot. I’m sure you’ve given us a lot for people to think about in who they want to work with, but this type of specific therapy can help people of all ages and stages. So thank you for giving us a whole lot of information and knowledge about that. And I think will prompt people to do more of their own exploring. So thank you so much for being here today and giving us your valuable time, Christine.
Christie Pearl: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Becky Coplen: To our listeners, we are so thankful that you’re tuning in to Mastering Counseling. We hope you review our old episodes as we have so many experts on many different issues, and we look forward to the new, clients, not clients, the new therapists and counselors that we will talk to in the future. Please send us your questions, give us your comments, and reach out for more information. Have a wonderful day. Goodbye.