What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a deep, transformative, scientifically researched, embodied psychotherapy approach. It started out as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress and is currently recommended as the main treatment approach for this by NICE-
· Trauma (severe accidents, having been attacked physically/verbally)
· Phobias (e.g. fear of flying, spiders, mice etc.)
· Attachment Issues (childhood problems like bullying, neglect or abuse, leading to difficulties in current relationships)
· Fear of success/performance enhancement
· Anxiety and panic
EMDR therapy can help people replace their anxiety and fear with positive images, emotions and thoughts. EMDR makes it possible to gain greater self-
In a nutshell, traumatic and distressing memories are stored in the part of our brain which deals with survival under threat and which produces our natural fight, flight and freeze responses. The amygdala (the part of the brain that deals with emergencies) is permanently switched on. The connection with the hippocampus (dealing with memory) is affected, which can lead us to think and feel as if the traumatic memories are happening now – that is why panic attacks can happen when a sufferer is presented with a trigger. EMDR therapy seeks to reprocess the traumatic memories. In these cases, EMDR therapy can be tremendously helpful. The Eye Movement part of the work is thought to bring about a process similar to that occurring in REM sleep which will allow the fragments of memory to move from the survival based part of the brain to the more adaptive thinking part of the brain. You will be awake and fully conscious at all times and while you engage with the difficult memories, you remain fully present in the here and now, in a safe, warm and encouraging environment, securely supported by your therapist. This means you will not be retraumatised, but can process these events in a safe and contained way. There are specific techniques we can use if you do not want to reveal what has happened to you.
In the first few sessions we'll draw up a timeline of your life so far, identifying all the difficult times you've experienced in order to assess together what you want to work on and what will be the most useful starting point. We'll also do some work to enable you to find a good space in yourself so that you have a place to return to that can help you settle and we may well work on other resources too. After that, the experience is radically different from traditional talking therapy. EMDR therapy works by activating both the right and left sides of the brain while recalling a traumatic event. This allows the memory to be reprocessed and the emotion attached to it to be released. The activation of the left and right side of the brain is normally achieved through eye movement: the practitioner will invite you to follow their hand with your eyes, tracking from left to right and back or up and down or diagonally. If for some reason you cannot make eye movements then left and right sound or tapping your knees or hands can be used.
During the short sets of eye movements you are guided to start where the difficult memories are and then just let whatever comes, come with no judgement or censorship and no need to describe it all to the therapist. This means there is far less talking than is usual in therapy. You’ll be asked to take a deep breath at the end of each set and report back what you notice now. I won’t analyse or interpret this, but will keep things moving by keeping on going with the short sets of ‘Bilateral Stimulations’, for example by eye movements, hand taps or sounds (e.g. clicks alternating between the left and the right ear). Between each set we make sure you remain present in the here and now, and, while there might be a lot of emotion coming up, we will make sure together that you feel safe and supported. Emotions, body sensations, sights, sounds may all come up as part of the processing -
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Generally, EMDR therapy processes even complex and long-