If something traumatic has happened to you, you may relive this. This is the memory of your experience crashing back into your mind. This can force you to relive the original event with the same intensity of feeling – like it is taking place in the present moment. These can take the form of flashbacks or nightmares. They are thought to occur because the mind was simply too overwhelmed during the event to process what was going on.
When traumatic events occur, the body’s natural coping mechanisms can be overwhelmed. Subsequently the memory and the accompanying sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings are inadequately processed and stored in wrong part of the brain. These ‘raw form’ memories can be activated each time we experience a trigger situation or recollection of the original event.
While it isn’t possible to erase these memories, the goal of EMDR therapy is to properly process these traumatic memories. This reduces their impact, the distress they cause and helps clients to develop better coping mechanisms. This is done through an eight-phase, evidence-based approach which addresses the past, present and future aspects of a stored memory. It requires clients to recall distressing events while receiving bilateral sensory input, including:
The eight phases of EMDR are as follows:
Reported benefits of EMDR include:
This allows you to rest more easily and go about your daily business without feeling fearful and prone to panic
A wide range of psychological difficulties, in particular those that originate in trauma can be treated by EMDR. This includes direct or indirect experiences of sexual assault, terror attack, accidents or natural disaster. These experiences often lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, for which EMDR has been recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
It is also increasingly used to treat more prolonged, low-grade distress that originates in shock or loss in adult life and/or issues experienced during childhood.
EMDR therapy is also being used for the treatment of other issues including:
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EMDR featured on BBC Radio 4’s programme iPM. The programme told the story of a woman revisiting difficult experiences of being bullied in childhood. Listen to her story here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04jyv3y