What is EMDR? It’s not about the eyes! or something like that.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, but in fact it isn’t really much about the eyes! It’s a therapy that uses ‘bilateral stimulation’ of the brain. For example, as you think about something that bothers you (like a traumatic memory or issue), I wave my hand in front of your eyes and you follow it back and forth. Eye movement is one form of bilateral stimulation however we’ve found that we can often get the same treatment effects with a headset and alternating beeps, or alternating taps on the hands. The idea is that traumatic memories sometimes get ‘stuck’ in the information-processing system of the brain, along with the emotions and even the physical sensations that went with the original experience.

When something bad happens, it happens first to the body, then the emotions kick in and then you start to ‘reprocess’ the event – you think about it, sleep on it, get support, time passes etc. At the end of that reprocessing, you can still remember the bad event, but it no longer bothers you – I’m sure you can think of bad things that have happened to you in your life, and you still remember them, but you have peace with them. That’s an example of the brain working the way it should. But sometimes this reprocessing gets stuck, and this is where EMDR comes in. It “desensitizes and reprocesses” the difficult memory or issue so that you have peace with it.

We think EMDR might have to do with the same thing your brain is doing during the dream stage of sleep (REM sleep). EMDR is thought to be a kind of accelerated, conscious version of REM sleep.  We also know that our later memories ‘stack’ on top of earlier ones, so we are very interested in those earlier “feeder” memories of things that happened when you were at your most vulnerable (in childhood). If you resolve the feeder memory, it’s like getting the ‘root system of the dandelion’ rather than just cutting the bloom off. EMDR has been extensively validated by regulating and governmental bodies in the States and around the world and by the World Health Organization (WHO).

During an EMDR session, you think about the issue or traumatic memory and we do a number of ‘sets’ of Bilateral Stimulation. It’s useful to use the metaphor of a train journey. You’re sitting in the carriage of a train, here in my office, and if upsetting feelings come up, it’s just like the scenery outside the train. All you have to do is notice and let it go by. Your brain is looking to take you wherever it needs to go. You need to know that you may experience intense emotions, both during an EMDR session and also perhaps between sessions. This can be difficult and tiring emotional work and you need to take really good care of yourself during the time you’re doing the EMDR therapy.

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Outside of Work

When I’m not working I can be found hiking with my dogs Max & Sofie, practicing yoga and other activities to stay healthy. Gardening, home cooking and knitting are amongst my favourite ways to relax. I’m a lover of lifelong learning and always have one or two courses on the go. Staying active and being curious are cornerstones for me in terms of personal and professional growth.

Janet Barry, MSW, RSW

Life Coaching and Counselling Services

When you’re ready to embrace change I welcome you to contact me to discuss how we can work together to support you to live your best life.

Throughout my professional career I can truly say I have worked with people from all walks of life! My experience includes working for community agencies as well as private mental health providers. Specific populations I serve  include individuals with a developmental disability and their families. As a parent and previous foster parent, I welcome young people and others with a connection to the foster care system. For many years I provided counselling and education in the area of social-sexual skills development. I welcome referrals from individuals who may require this specific support.

I offer counselling for individuals seeking support with trauma, life transitions, change and loss, anxiety, parenting and disability. As a knowledgeable system’s advocate, I can support you to understand and navigate any barriers that may be preventing you from accessing the resources you need.

My approach is integrative and that means I combine different therapeutic tools and approaches to fit your individual needs. I have training and experience in the following modalities including Mindfulness, Life Coaching, Cognitive & Dialectic Behavior Therapy, trauma informed therapies and Solution Focused Brief Therapy. I am currently studying Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and have recently completed Phase 1 training. At present, I am offering this exciting and effective approach for individuals affected by  intrusive memories and single incident trauma.

Regardless of the modality, promoting personal growth and change in a timely manner is important to me as a counsellor. You set the course for our work together whether that be single session counselling, booster sessions along the way or a longer-term approach. I believe the pace of one’s counselling is as unique as each individual.

I have been described by my clients as compassionate, motivating, flexible and creative, a strong advocate and forward thinking. Clients also report that my solutions focused approach to living life has had lasting benefits.

Take the time to discover your own path. The smallest decisions can change your life forever.