EMDR has evolved from a simple desensitization technique to a broad-based psychotherapy approach, revolutionizing how EMDR therapists understand change and their treatment approach. From early intervention protocols that address recent traumatic events for individuals and groups to ongoing psychotherapy, EMDR is not cookie-cutter. Its robust methodology has stood the test of time and research in the last three decades. Find out more with EMDR-certified therapist, trainer, and consultant Deany Laliotis, LCSW-C, about how EMDR therapists offer healing and transformation to address the cumulative impact of trauma on the human spirit.
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Kim Howard 00:04
Welcome to the Let’s Talk EMDR podcast brought to you by the EMDR International Association or EMDRIA. I’m your host Kim Howard. In this episode we are talking with EMDR certified therapist, trainer and consultant, Deany Laliotis about EMDR therapy and what the past, present and future looks like. Deany is located in Washington, D.C. Let’s get started. Today we’re speaking with EMDR certified therapist, consultant and trainer Deany Laliotis about changing lives with EMDR therapy, and what past, present and future looks like. She lives in Washington, D.C. Thank you, Deany, for being here today. We are so happy that you said yes.
Deany Laliotis 00:43
Thank you for asking. I’m so delighted to be here with you today.
Kim Howard 00:48
Can you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an EMDR therapist?
Deany Laliotis 00:52
Well, I happen to be at the right place at the right time. So some of it is just sheer luck. But I was working with combat veterans and POWs and the V.A. system. And we were just really struggling with helping these guys get through the day, get through the night, and help them to get back into their lives because they were managing so much traumatic stress. And then we heard about EMDR. And it was like, oh, let’s check this out. And keep in mind, this was not long after we had a diagnosis called PTSD. This was within 10 years of the diagnosis. So we were flailing with treating trauma for a long time. And then after we got the diagnosis, we were still really struggling with it. So EMDR was like a real game changer.
Kim Howard 01:47
Yeah, my dad was career military and to serve two tours in Vietnam. And he did come back with some PTSD. And my mother used to tell a story about how it was about, I don’t know, probably 18 months to two years after he returned, he would just have these random nightmares in the middle of the night. And like he was there experiencing the things that were happening, you know, and he eventually worked through it. I don’t think he saw anybody, you know, in but that was back in the early 70s. You know, people didn’t really go to see therapists, and especially people in the military. There was a little bit of machismo happening at the time, the military, little macho attitude about, you know, I’m in the military, and I can handle it. And so I don’t need to see a therapist to talk through my feelings, quote, unquote, and get through what I’m going through. But I’m very grateful that the diagnosis was finally discovered or approved, or however that process works, and, and that therapists are out there helping people like my dad and others who are suffering, either from PTSD or other mental issues. And so thank you, thank you to all of the EMDR therapists and all the other therapists out there who help people every day. What is your favorite part of working with EMDR therapy?
Deany Laliotis 03:03
That I see changes all the time that are shared experiences that we can have together. Because it’s not just about their experience. It’s a we experience, right? Because it’s also wonderful for me to see the changes in them and share it with them as well.
Kim Howard 03:25
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I work our social media accounts. And I would say, on a regular basis, somebody will say EMDR therapy changed my life. And that’s a pretty powerful testament to the therapy and what is offered to help help you know, EMDRIA members, or EMDRIA, therapists are changing so people’s lives. So that’s a that’s a great testament to that. Thank you.
Deany Laliotis 03:47
Kim Howard 03:48
What sucesses have you seen using EMDR therapy?
Deany Laliotis 03:51
I can give you lots of examples. How much time do you have? So it’s everything from the unexpected changes that you don’t see coming. To the changes that are not only expected but transformative. You know, I think of one of the earliest cases I had was a woman whose husband had recently suicided and I was just a newbie, so I was pretty anxious myself about how I was going to get through this horrific experience and get it to the other side. And so of course, I had at the end of the day, I set aside extra time. My husband and colleague Dan was like in the next room if I needed anything and and not only did we get through the session, but when I saw her the next time and I was checking in with her. How are you doing with you know, what’s happened since we last met, which was only a few days because I was seeing her more frequently during that period. She said, You know, it was a strange thing. I went And I bought myself a red bicycle. Like, how, how come? She was I don’t know, I just felt compelled. Long story short, her father had once promised her a red bicycle that she never got from him. And so perhaps even though this isn’t what we worked on, this was a way that she was sort of taking the reins back of her life and bringing it forward. And so I’ll never forget that moment. It was so poignant. Not just about EMDR, because it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for EMDR. But it was about the human resilience that we have to survive, and to cope, and to keep going. That was amazing.
Kim Howard 05:57
Yeah, that yeah, that is amazing. That is amazing. Thank you for sharing that. Deany, are there any myths that you would like to bust about EMDR therapy?
Deany Laliotis 06:06
That it’s just a technique EMDR has had a lot of growing pains over the last 30 years. And there’s been a lot of naysayers. A lot of people say, Oh, it’s just CBT with eye movements. It’s just another technique, anybody can do it. You can do it yourself on an app. But you don’t even need a therapist, it’s just a simple thing. It’s not a big deal. And nothing could be further from the truth. And I think that there’s a misconception for people in the EMDR community as well as people outside of the EMDR. Community, professionals and consumers alike. Because on one level EMDR is easy to learn. Right? You take a symptom, you identify the memory that’s associated with it, you follow the procedural steps, you go with that and until and unless you get stuck, and that’s it. But really, that’s not it. It’s hard to do well, because those memory networks are not just linear things like a ruler with lines. And they’re like more like branches of a tree. They’re complex. They’re anything but linear. And it requires a lot of presence and skill to help our clients do now what they couldn’t do at the time that had happened.
Kim Howard 07:31
Here, we don’t recommend people do EMDR therapy on themselves. Yeah.
Deany Laliotis 07:39
You know, if we’re going to let whatever happens happen, that’s probably not the best idea.
Kim Howard 07:44
Not a good idea. Yeah. So let’s talk about how EMDR therapy has changed in the last 30 years?
Deany Laliotis 07:51
Well, that’s a big question. Because it keeps changing. It’s like a kid that keeps growing and growing and growing and growing, you’re sort of wondering when, when they’re going to reach their full maturity. So you know, it started as a simple desensitization technique, let’s get the disturbance down. So it’s no longer disturbing. From there, we went to, oh, my gosh, we’re not just working on making you feel better about one incident. It’s now connecting to other similar experiences that you’ve had before. So we’re getting more bang for our buck, because our system is associative. Okay, so that brings us to EMDR. So from 1989 to 1990, was a huge change in EMDR. And then EMDR, developed as a treatment for PTSD. But really, as we started to use it, for memories, where clients were having PTSD symptoms, what we realized was, we can treat anything that’s based in memory, which, of course, is the human experience. Fast forward. Now we have EMDR therapy in 2010. So for those 20 years, we were working on all kinds of problems in different contexts, because we could treat anything that was based in memory. But now we have a continuum. EMDR therapy isn’t just an ongoing psychotherapy on one end of the continuum to help people with complex trauma and attachment issues. It can also be an intervention that’s used in the field for an individual or groups of people that have endured a natural disaster, or terrorist event. And that’s not therapy, that’s an intervention. And so we have to really appreciate that they’re all cool. kinds of EMDR out there. Now, there isn’t just EMDR. There’s EMDR therapy, there’s EMDR psychotherapy, there are EMDR protocols, there EMDR techniques that come out of our model that can be used as a standalone or as part of an ongoing psychotherapy process, or as part of something that someone learns to use on their own as a self regulation. technique. So EMDR is a lot of things. And part of where I think we’ve had some growing pains is around the need to clean up our language to discern how EMDR therapy might be different than an EMDR. Early Intervention, just as one illustration of that, because they’re not the same, even though across the board, they all have the same core elements, the dual attention, the bilateral stimulation, the procedural steps, and so forth, and so on.
Kim Howard 11:11
Yeah, that’s a good way to put that. I feel like there’s a small misconception out in the general public that EMDR is only for PTSD. And I don’t have PTSD. So EMDR won’t work for me. And that’s one of the reasons that we’re trying to get the word out through our website and our members and through the podcast is that EMDR can be used to treat many, many, many issues, not only PTSD. And so you know, you can have like, if you go to a sandwich shop, you know, you’ve got the same core pieces of your sandwich, you’ve got some sort of bread, and you’ve got everything in between, you’ve got the condiments, and so but everybody that comes in the door is going to order a different sandwich, right. And so EMDR therapy is a little bit like that in terms of where the sandwich shop, and you come in, and you tell us what is going on. And then we figure out what works best for you. And I feel like finding the right kind of therapy that worked for somebody is is difficult, it’s kind of like finding the right doctor for you or finding the right friends. Or if you’re dating, finding the right person to connect with and maybe eventually live your life with and so is unfortunately, sort of trial and error in terms of finding the right therapist and finding the right treatment that works for you. But people should look at that and understand that, that it can treat more than, quote unquote, just PTSD. And so thank you for, for telling us that it’s very good. How do you strike that balance between protocol and person?
Deany Laliotis 12:41
Carefully. And here’s what I mean by that. We as therapists have memory networks to, and we’ve all had to go to school, and we’ve all had to learn to get it right. But it’s not about getting it right. It’s about doing our best and bringing ourselves to this process. Francine Shapiro never ever intended EMDR to be a cookie cutter, or something in a toolbox that you pull out as a one size fits all. Our job as clinicians is to understand what’s best for clients, and EMDR as a methodology, and as a psychotherapy approach is quite robust in the ways that we can apply it to whatever the person needs at the time, either at the time that they come in for treatment, or over the course of treatment. So for example, if somebody was assaulted some years ago, and they’re just now finally getting up the courage to seek help for it, and they come to an EMDR therapist, the EMDR therapist, while taking a comprehensive history has to make some decisions in collaboration with the client about what the best course of action is going to be. And so the standard protocol would tell us to start with foundational memories, the earliest childhood memories the client can remember. But in this case, what is more likely to be the case is that the client was asymptomatic before this assault occurred, and then subsequent to the assault, they became symptomatic, and they’ve been managing their symptoms for quite a while. And so in this case, we would have to make a different decision. Instead of starting with the standard protocol. We would start with the PTSD protocol, which is the adult onset assault that is generating the symptoms that the client is now finally coming in to get help for. Or other people that a three pronged approach tells us we can start with the future. Sometimes people are coming in with anticipatory anxieties. I work with a lot of athletes and performers, and artists, who have blocks in their creativity or in their performance, because they’ve had perhaps some previous failure experiences, or there’s a lot on the line. So sometimes, we have to go into the future anxiety. Why? Because the future anxiety is based on past experiences. Other people are saying, hey, I need to work on my relationship with my partner, I’m not ready or interested in going into my childhood, can you help me with what I’m dealing with now. So EMDR gives us a lot of flexibility, where our point of entry can be around whatever makes the most sense, given what’s going on with the client, their readiness to approach their strengths and resiliency as they bring to it, as well as the resources that they need more of, in order to best prepare them for the journey. And so the protocol goes with the person, but the person has to go with the protocol to and not infrequently, we can lose sight of trying to get it right. But really, the protocol is only as good as our ability to be present to the clients experience. Because at the end of the day, the client is not going to go there alone. If they were going to go there alone, they would have gone there already. They need a present attuned therapist to accompany them on this journey, which is one of uncertainty, one of unpredictability, and that they have successfully either set aside, avoided compartmentalize or just managed to get themselves to this point in their lives. And so it’s both it’s an end rather than an or. And I think that question, just to say a couple more things about it is really a reflection of the growing pains that EMDR has gone through, because it was so much about protocol, because EMDR, unlike other psychotherapy approaches had to prove itself in our profession. And in doing that, we had to really produce a lot of research, and researches about fidelity to the protocol. So it’s understandable that the EMDR community placed an unusually high value on the importance of adhering to the fidelity of the protocol. And I agree, it’s important, but it’s not sufficient. It has to go hand in hand with the people that are using it.
Kim Howard 18:04
I like the way you put that, I think it’s very similar. When you go to a regular doctor, you know, you the doctor, what works for one patient doesn’t work for the next patient. And so that is a job that a therapist has to, you know, look at that person and their situation and figure out what’s going to work best for them. And so I appreciate you, you talking about that, because I feel like sometimes people get stuck in that cookie cutter approach, either as the client or as possibly as the therapist and they say, Well, I have to do it this way. And so you’re giving permission to the expert to say, you know, you may not have to do it this way for every patient or client who walks through your door. So thank you for, for letting us know about that.
Deany Laliotis 18:51
Yeah, you know, I appreciate it. And it’s it’s an honor struggle to have. So I’m just glad we can name it, we can talk about it. And that we’re out there saying you don’t it’s not a choice. It’s an and it’s not an war.
Kim Howard 19:06
Yeah. So you presented at our recent annual conference, and the general session title was changing lives with EMDR therapy past, present and future directions. Is there anything from your presentation that you would like the larger broader podcast audience to know about? There might be more than one thing you can you can certainly talk about that. It doesn’t have to be just one thing just is there anything in the top of your mind that says oh, I wish people knew about A or B or A and B and C?
Deany Laliotis 19:38
Well, for starters, it’s not a cookie cutter. That EMDR is incredibly robust and flexible and can meet a broad variety of needs and a variety of different contexts. So for the consumer, you don’t have to have a trauma history in order to be a client And who’s eligible for EMDR? Because the humaneness of our experience is what makes us eligible to benefit from EMDR. So it cuts across the board. And another way that it cuts across the board is that trauma is an inherent part of life. Because the way we think about trauma in the EMDR world is any experience we’ve had that continues to have a lasting, negative impact on us. So that’s a broader view than most people are accustomed to when they think about what is trauma, what is PTSD, and so in, in a good way that normalizes having traumatic stress, because we all have experiences in our lives, that hurt. And that still hurt when we bring them to mind and have had a negative impact on us in one way or another. And so the normalization of these kinds of issues, takes the shame away from the struggle, which I think is really important. For clients in particular, as well as for clinicians. We can’t help but react in the ways that we do, because the push of the trauma, emotionally hijacks us. And so of course, we’re reacting, is it for five years old, when we’re 55 years old, of course, it’s going to be harder, because those memories are unresolved. And they inform how we perceive how we feel about what’s happening in our lives now. And so going forward, I think it’s incumbent on us in the EMDR community, to let the larger world know that this is for everyone. It can be one session, it can be two or three sessions, it can be two or three months, or it can be two or three years. Because we all are not the same. We struggle in the same ways. But we need different things at different times. And so being someone who can say we have a continuum of offerings for you, is part of it. It’s not it was this way, then and now it’s this way. And further. We are in an age, I think technologically as well as professionally, where we’re having to integrate more. In other words, instead of being siloed, as just EMDR therapists or just cognitive behavioral therapists, or just ego state therapists, we are all trained in multiple modalities, and multiple treatment approaches. And so part of what I think is in the future, is how to integrate what we know from other modalities in a way that makes us better at what we do as EMDR therapist. So for example, I teach relational EMDR therapy, which is an attachment focused approach to treating clients who suffer with complex developmental trauma. And frequently, they’re coming in with self esteem difficulties and relationship problems and self regulation issues, which are attachment based. And so part of the relational approach is tracking the parallel process between the memories that were reprocessing and the relational dimension of a client and the therapist. Because part of what makes it possible for our clients to go there is how we show up in relationship to their experience. And so that’s the future. That’s an example of how a more integrative approach that includes attachment theory, somatic processes, interpersonal neurobiology, an effect of neurosciences, parts work. All of that is implicit in that one example of how we use the parallel process to being in relationship because we’re all relational by nature. So it can never be just about the protocol. So in an interesting way, the future brings us back to the present, which is that it’s both and and that we need to continue to do Weighing in all that we know now that we didn’t know 30 years ago when EMDR was first developed. And that we can still maintain EMDR is our main framework that is informed by the adaptive information processing model, which tells us that the past is present, for better and for worse, and within that framework, we can help our clients in that bottom up way process the fight flight response, we can help our clients learn to be vulnerable in relationship when they didn’t have the opportunity to feel that connection before we can help our clients be able to observe their reactivity rather than be reactive. We can help our clients grow and change beyond symptom relief. And that’s the healing transformative part of EMDR therapy that is the synergy between the model our clients, and us.
Kim Howard 26:09
It’s a great way to put it, thank you. How do you practice cultural humility as an EMDR therapist?
Deany Laliotis 26:16
Regularly. You know, I’m always learning from my experiences from my clients. And, you know, as a child of an immigrant Greek family, I did not know one word of English when I went to school, I wasn’t blond haired and blue eyed. And I was sitting in the back of the room feeling like I didn’t belong. And I didn’t know how to relate to anyone or anything that was going on. So I feel like I and I think a lot of people do have experiences of feeling other than, and what it’s taught me is not to assume that I know what that is for the other person. And I think that the gift that came out of it for me is to learn how to listen, to better understand a person’s subjective experiences, given the cultural context, given their identity, given the generational transmission of trauma, and how to help hold that space, where we can begin to explore that on known and sometimes unspoken, territory. And so while I don’t ask my clients to teach me, I do strive to understand by listening.
Kim Howard 27:51
Thant’s a good answer. Thank you. Deany, do you have a favorite free EMDR related resource that you would suggest either for the public or other EMDR therapists?
Deany Laliotis 28:02
Well, we give one out, and it’s called the touch technique. And it absolutely is free. The TOUCH technique is a self-regulating technique. And we were talking about that earlier that we had these EMDR related techniques, where a client or any person for that matter, can use the technique to manage a daily a trigger something that comes up in their daily experience, or something that comes up subsequent to an EMDR session. So the T stands for trigger. The OST stands for observe that trigger, right, because if we can observe that we’re being triggered, we’re not exactly in it in the same way. So it’s already going to shift our experience. And that brings us to understanding it, which is the U and then see containing it, setting it aside. And whatever form of containment the client chooses. And then the H is holding on to it for healing, which is bring it in. And let’s clean some house. Whether it’s someone’s in therapy or not in therapy, it’s a great technique to be able to manage our experiences, understanding them, containing them, and then when we’re ready to do something with them, we can.
Kim Howard 29:29
I will include a link in the podcast episode description so that our listeners can go and find that resource. Thank you. All right, what would you like people outside of the EMDR community to know about the future of EMDR therapy?
Deany Laliotis 29:42
I can’t help but respond with one of my own favorite memories of Francine which was that, ‘We are ambassadors of world peace and EMDR is our weapon.’ In other words, trauma has a cycle. People who are traumatized tend to traumatize other people, however, inadvertently, that’s the cycle of trauma and violence. And so EMDR can interrupt that cycle. So whether it’s one person, one family, one community, one country, ultimately the world, that’s what we strive for every day that somehow the person that we’re helping will touch other people. And it has a synergistic effect that can help change the world.
Kim Howard 30:44
That will be awesome. We like that changing the world. Deany, if you weren’t an EMDR therapist, what would you be?
Deany Laliotis 30:53
That’s a trick question.
Kim Howard 30:57
It can be anything. Doesn’t have to be anything serious. It can be something fun.
Deany Laliotis 31:02
I wish I could give you a fun entertaining answer. But I would say that I came into the world to do this work. And it just, I can’t imagine that I would be doing anything else, really.
Kim Howard 31:21
That’s a good answer. There’s no wrong answer to that question. There is absolutely no wrong answer. But I’ve heard some yeah, I’ve heard some interesting, fun things. I’ve heard some serious things. And I have interviewed people in the past who said, I would, I would still do this work. If I, you know, if I, I would still go back and do it all over again. And I think that’s really a testament to the fact that I truly believe that being a therapist is a vocation, and not something that you just sort of choose to do. I think you’d have to be called to do it based on just the work alone. And so that’s great answer. Thank you.
Deany Laliotis 32:01
Yeah, no, I think we all most of us who come to this have a calling? I think that’s right.
Kim Howard 32:07
Yeah. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Deany Laliotis 32:13
You know, we were talking about a friend teens version of world peace a few moments ago. And, and I think it’s been hard, the last three years in particular, to stay hopeful to keep our hearts open. For clinicians, in particular, when we were all going through the pandemic, we were all going through the same things or clients were going through at the same time. And so it was really hard to keep that level of objectivity, if you will, because we were all in the same movie.
Kim Howard 33:00
Really bad movie. Yeah.
Deany Laliotis 33:04
It’s like, really, am I when is when is when is when am I going to wake up from this? Yeah. But I think part of what’s come out of this time is really having a much more profound appreciation for the resiliency of the human spirit. And to hold on to hope, even when it doesn’t feel or look good. That hope is really what makes it possible to have a different end to the story. And that is what we ask of our clients. You know, many of our clients come to this work, not having much experience with things working out well. And so we asked them to take our word for it. We ask them to trust us. We ask them to trust the model. We ask them to trust the processes of it’s all going to magically be okay. And in truth, there is a magic to it. But what we need is we need them to be hopeful that it’s possible. And that is the space where the magic happens, both in life as well as EMDR therapy.
Kim Howard 34:27
That’s a great way to end the podcast. Thank you, Deany.
Deany Laliotis 34:29
Kim Howard 34:30
This has been a Let’sTtalk EMDR podcast with our guest Deany Laliotis. Visit www.emdria.org for more information about EMDR therapy, or to use our Find an EMDR Therapist Directory with more than 15,000 therapists available. Like what you hear? Make sure you subscribe to this free podcast wherever you listen. Thanks for being here today.
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Copyright © 2023 EMDR International Association
Howard, K. (Host). (2023, November 1). EMDR Therapy: Past, Present and Future with Deany Laliotis (Season 2, No. 21) [Audio podcast episode]. In Let’s Talk EMDR podcast. EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org/letstalkemdrpodcast/
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