What is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)? 

If something traumatic has happened to you (such as abuse, a car accident or something seemingly less significant like being humiliated), the memory of your experience may come crashing back into your mind, forcing you to relive the original event with the same intensity of feeling – like it is taking place in the present moment.

These experiences that pop into your awareness may present themselves as either flashbacks or nightmares, and 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 cognitive and neurological coping mechanisms can be overwhelmed and subsequently the memory and the accompanying sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings are inadequately processed and stored in an isolated network. 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, reducing their impact, the distress they cause and helping clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms. This is done through an eight-phase approach to address the past, present, and future aspects of a stored memory, requiring clients to recall distressing events while receiving bilateral sensory input, including:

  • side to side eye movements
  • hand tapping
  • auditory tones.

The eight phases of EMDR are as follows:

  1. History and treatment planning
  2. Preparation, to establish trust and explain the treatment in-depth
  3. Assessment, to establish negative feelings and identify positive replacements
  4. Desensitization, which includes the eye movement technique
  5. Installation, to strengthen positive replacements
  6. Body scan, to see if the client is now able to bring up memories of trauma without experiencing negative feelings that are no longer relevant, or if reprocessing is necessary
  7. Closure, which occurs at the end of every session

What are the benefits?

Reported benefits of EMDR include:

  • A reduction in re-experiencing trauma memories (which often present themselves as flashbacks or nightmares).
  • More adaptive coping with improved management of trauma memories and a reduction in the avoidance of potential triggers.
  • Reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, irritation and hypervigilance – which allows you to rest more easily and addresses pressure and/or conflict and helps you to go about your daily business without feeling fearful and prone to panic.
  • Feeling more able to engage in relationships and enjoy pleasurable activities.
  • Reduced feelings of isolation, hopelessness and depression.
  • A boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.

What are the issues that can be addressed by EMDR?

EMDR therapy is used to treat a wide range of psychological difficulties that typically originate in trauma, such as direct or indirect experiences of sexual assault, terror attack, accidents or natural disaster. EMDR therapy 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.

The aforementioned experiences often lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, for which EMDR has been recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

EMDR therapy is also being used for the treatment of other issues including:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Specific phobias and fears (e.g. performance anxiety)

EMDR featured on BBC Radio 4’s programme iPM recently. The programme told the story of a woman revisiting difficult experiences of being bullied in childhood. Listen to her story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04jyv3y

You can arrange a free private and confidential 15 telephone consultation via our online calendar today. The consultation will help you decide if this is the right path for you.