What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a non-drug, non‐hypnosis psychotherapy procedure. The therapist guides the client in concentrating on a troubling memory or emotion while moving the eyes rapidly back and forth (by following the therapist’s fingers). This rapid eye movement, which occurs naturally during dreaming, seems to speed the client’s movement through the healing process.
What happens when you are traumatized?
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 traumatized by an overwhelming event (e.g. a car accident) or by being repeatedly subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect), your natural coping mechanisms 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 part of your brain in a "raw" and emotional form, rather than in a verbal "story" mode.
This limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is associated with emotions and physical sensations, 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 a 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.
Why bring up a painful memory?
When painful memories are avoided, they keep their disturbing power. However, a flashback or nightmare can feel as upsetting and overwhelming as the original experience, yet not be helpful. In therapy, and with EMDR, you can face the memory in a safe setting, so that you do not feel overwhelmed. Then you can get through it and move on.
What happens in a session?
EMDR is different for everyone, because the healing process is guided from within. Sometimes past issues or memories come up, which are related to the current concern. These may also be treated with EMDR, perhaps in the same session. Sometimes a painful memory brings up unpleasant emotions or body sensations. This is normal and generally passes within a few minutes, as long as the EMDR is not stopped. The upsetting emotion or memory often seems to fade into the past and lose its power.
Are there any precautions?
Yes. There are specific procedures to be followed depending on your presenting problem, emotional stability, medical condition, and other factors. It is very important that your therapist be formally trained in EMDR, and be competent in trauma-informed therapy.
What happens afterwards?
You may continue to process the material for days or even weeks after the session, perhaps having new insights, vivid dreams, strong feelings, or memory recall. This may feel confusing, but it is just a continuation of the healing process, and should simply be reported to the therapist at the next session. (However, if you become concerned or depressed, you should call your therapist immediately.) As the distressing symptoms fade, you can work with the therapist on developing new skills and ways of coping.
What can EMDR be used for?
In addition to its use for the treatment of Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), EMDR has successfully been used to treat:
- Panic attacks
- Obsessional thinking
- Grief and Loss
- Pain (including phantom limb pain)
- Performance anxiety
- Sleep problems
- Feelings of worthlessness/low self–esteem
How long does treatment take?
EMDR can be a brief focused treatment or part of a longer psychotherapy treatment plan, and can be easily integrated with other approaches. Positive effects have been seen after just one session of EMDR.
What evidence is there that EMDR is a successful treatment?
EMDR is an innovative clinical treatment which has successfully helped over a million individuals. The validity and reliability of EMDR has been established by rigorous research. There are now over nineteen controlled studies focused on EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method used in the treatment of trauma. The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Department of Defense, Veteran’s Administration, and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies all recognize EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD.
Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy, individuals can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. EMDR can accelerate therapy by resolving the impact of your past traumas and allowing you to live more fully in the present. Please contact our office today to schedule with an EMDR trained therapist.
Adapted from information at www.getselfhelp.co.uk and www.thetraumacentre.com