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15th August 2020 

Eye Movement Densensitisation and Reprocessing

  • As part of my integrative approach, I do offer Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). You may have heard something about this treatment, but I will endeavour to briefly outline what EMDR is and how it can be used as past of an integrative therapy.

What is EMDR?

  • The mind can often heal itself naturally after difficult experiences, in the same way as the body does. Much of this natural coping mechanism occurs during sleep, particularly rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Francine Shapiro developed EMDR in 1987, utilising this natural process in order to successfully treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has been used to effectively treat a wide range of mental health problems.

What Happens When You Are Traumatised?

  • Most of the time your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something out of the ordinary occurs and you are traumatised by an overwhelming event (e.g. a car accident) or by being repeatedly subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect or prolonged bullying), your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining frozen in your brain or being "unprocessed".

  • Such unprocessed memories and feelings are stored in the limbic system of your brain in a 'raw' and emotional form, rather than in the usual verbal 'story' mode. The limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is associated with emotions and physical sensations, and which are disconnected from the brain's cortex, where we use language to store memories.

  • The limbic system's traumatic memories can be continually triggered when you experience events similar to the difficult experiences you have been through. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are continually triggered in the present. Your ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences can therefore become inhibited. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain's memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way.

What EMDR is NOT

  • EMDR is not a form of hypnosis. During EMDR treatment you will remain in control, fully alert and wide awake. You will be free to pause the process at any time and in this way, you are in the one driving the treatment.

  • EMDR is not a form of re-experiencing therapy and you will not need to revisit in detail any experience you do not wish to. This need not affect your EMDR treatment. It will almost be like you are a passenger in a train, passing by any distressing experiences swiftly and at a distance.

  • I use EMDR as part of a longer integrative psychotherapy programme and not as the sole approach to a client's therapy. Indeed, it will rarely occupy a full session and will normally be part of our work over a number of sessions.

What happens in EMDR?

  • EMDR utilises the natural healing ability of your mind. After a thorough assessment, you will be asked specific questions about a particulary disturbing memory. Eye movements, similar to those during REM sleep, will be recreated simply by asking you to watch the therapist's finger moving backwards and forwards across your visual field. The eye movements will last for a short while and then stop. You will then be asked to report back on the experiences you have had during each of these sets of eye movements. Experiences during a session may include changes in thoughts, images and feelings.

  • With repeated sets of eye movements, the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also heal at the same time. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvements in many aspects of your life.

What can EMDR be used for?

  • In additions to its use for the treatment of PTSD, EMDR has been successfully used to treat:

    anxiety and panic attacks
    sleep problems
    complicated grief
    pain relief
    self-esteem issues
    performance anxiety

Who can benefit from EMDR?

  • EMDR can accelerate therapy by resolving the impact of past traumatic experiences and allowing you to live more fully in the present. It is not, however, appropriate for everyone. It may be a part of your integrative therapy with me, but I will carefully assess whether it would be an effective part of therapy. We will discuss this fully during our sessions in order to come to a decision