EMDR Therapy, What is it?
EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was developed in 1988 by Francine Shapiro. It has proved to be an effective form of psychotherapy and one of the few therapies recommended by the World Health Organization for the treatment of PTSD.
What exactly is EMDR Therapy
EMDR can help if you are suffering from emotional distress caused by disturbing life experiences. One of the aspects that makes this therapy unique is the speed at which it achieves results, particularly in the alleviation of PTSD and phobias. It is more directive than regular talk therapy and targets specific memories and experiences in your life that are causing distress. It is as much based on neurology and how the brain heals as it is on the regular concepts of psychotherapy.
EMDR is not a magic wand therapy, I do not believe there is such a thing. If we are dealing with fairly obvious causes of distress eg. an accident, an assault, a traumatic time at the dentist etc, and we are pretty sure that this incident is causing symptoms such as Avoidance, Flashbacks/Nightmares, Hypervigilance then EMDR therapy can be a pretty straightforward and relatively quick form of therapy. If we are dealing with more complex issues then the therapy will naturally become more complex in its treatment. I have found that for people like that EMDR is still a very direct form of therapy and a treatment plan can be agreed upon on how to reach your goals for therapy.
The main point of EMDR therapy is to Desensitise and Reprocess disturbing events from the past, present or feared future events. Below I try to outline how the process works.
If we use the example of the Car Accident that has caused PTSD. Because something like an accident is too traumatic or shocking for the mind to handle at the time it is happening, the memory of the event gets stored away dysfunctionally. Then, sometime after the event has passed the memory comes up again to get processed or digested in the right way. But, because it was stored dysfunctionally in the first place the brain interprets the rising memory as the event happening again and sets off the “alarm” causing symptoms such as fight or flight, anxiety, avoidance, hypervigilance, panic attack etc and so the memory gets pushed away again until the next trigger of time it tries to resurface and the cycle continues.
The Eye Movement in EMDR stops the “alarm” going off. So as we bring up the memory we use Eye Movement to stop the alarm going off and stop the symptoms and then we can Desensitize the memory by letting it come to the surface. By allowing this to happen the brain can understand that the event (in this case the car accident) is over and so Reprocess it (as something that is over) and store it in the normal way.
The studies done on the effectiveness of EMDR therapy show that it is exceptionally successful. For example, research examining the efficiency of short sessions, tell us that more than 80% of single trauma victims do not have PTSD after three 90-minute sessions.
How EMDR Therapy Works
I will tailor the therapy to meet your needs using an eight phase model summarised below:
- In phase one, we will get to know each other and the problems you are facing. We will talk about your history and the experiences that might lead to your current distressing situations. These understand these experiences as our targets for EMDR therapy.
- Next, we work on positive resources. Since we are working on desensitising disturbing experiences from your past, current triggers in the present, or worries about the future, you need to be in touch with a positive and resourced place during our sessions. This is important for reprocessing. The goal of EMDR Therapy is to achieve fast results effectively, but that is only possible when we are in a good place in our session.
- The next four phases are Desensitisation and Reprocessing. I will guide you through this process where we focus on each of your targets, one by one. This is where we use Eye Movement and other forms of Bilateral Stimulation.
- The seventh and eighth phase are used to finish our sessions and examine our progress.
Are You Looking for EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy can sometimes be a difficult process, some people report intense dreams, or periods of slight instability while we are doing the work but I am professionally trained to make sure that we do not overwhelm you in any way during the work, we go respectfully at your pace.
If you think EMDR Therapy can help you, or you are not sure and need advice. Don’t hesitate to contact me.
EMDR in the media: