EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing]
EMDR is appropriate for individuals who have experienced severe trauma that remains unresolved. Francine Shapiro recognised that, when a traumatic or distressing experience occurs, it may overwhelm our normal way of coping: cognitive and neurological. Memories and the associated triggers and reactions are not adequately processed. They become fragmented and stored in a dissociated way. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process these distressing memories by reducing their ongoing effects and enabling the development of more adaptive coping mechanisms. Traditionally an eight-step protocol that facilitates the person to focus on a rhythmic right-left movement of their eyes or the use of some other bi-lateral stimulation while simultaneously allowing the painful thoughts, feelings, images or sensations to be processed. Although EMDR was originally developed to treat adults suffering from PTSD, it is also effective in the treatment of other conditions as well as children and young people.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma by a wide range of organizations. In the UK, NICE the body that recommends treatments for various medical conditions, recommends EMDR as one of the treatments of choice for PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Those suffering from major traumas such as sexual or physical assault, combat experiences, accidents or the sudden death of a loved one can be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if certain symptoms exist. These symptoms include: intrusive thoughts of the event; flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance of reminders of the incident and increased arousal, sleep disturbance; angry outbursts; being easily startled or having difficulty concentrating.
Officially, it is necessary to have experienced a major trauma for a diagnosis of PTSD. However, life experiences, that in themselves, would not be classed as trauma, particularly if they are cumulative, can cause even more symptoms of PTSD than major traumas. Many of these disturbing life experiences take place during childhood and can include painful experiences with parents or peers. These have a negative impact on a person’s sense of self in a similar manner to PTSD and the unprocessed memories need to be accessed and processed
During trauma, some memories are too disruptive or painful to be processed at the time and may be buried along with the disturbing emotions, sensations and beliefs. If these get triggered for some reason, the old reactions can disturb the present but because they are not processed, they continue to have an impact on the present experience. Even the smallest things can trigger buried memories and emotions with associated physical reactions: a smell, a facial expression, a forgotten sound or image. The tightening of the chest or stomach, the panic reaction and distress can cause real present disturbance without our recognising where it comes from – the past – the old stuff!
EMDR therapy can help with processing and enable the past trauma to be reconnected in such as way as it can be put properly in the past, allowing a person to fully embrace the present. Anyone suffering from PTSD can benefit from EMDR therapy.
What happens in EMDR therapy?
- a good history will be taken
- initial assessment will determine if EMDR may be suitable for you
- prepared for memory processing
- the memory will be accessed in a safe manner
- the information processing system of the brain is stimulated so the memory can be transformed into a useful learning
- the negative emotions, physical sensations and beliefs can be discarded and a positive sense of self can emerge.
- as EMDR therapy continues, the brain sorts through the painful thoughts, feelings and sensations to work towards resolution to enable the person to live life well without the same distress. Past events are truly assigned to the past and, when remembered, no longer carry the painful effects previously experienced
- for single non-complex traumas, you will need at least three sessions of 90 minutes each. Earlier life traumas and those that are more complex will take longer to resolve but are still remarkably fast
EMDR therapy is broader than just removing symptoms: it deals with the past, present and can help to optimise future actions with the goal of achieving emotional health. Much more information on EMDR can be found on the EMDR UK & Ireland website
[This is not a process of hypnosis. The individual remains in control and is often encouraged to replay events as if running a video fast or looking out of a train window at fast moving scenery.]