Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing


What is EMDR

EMDR – ta treatment for trauma, phobia’s & fears

EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing – is a therapy which has proved to be effective in helping people who have had traumatic or distressing experiences. It has also proved effective with phobias and other fears and anxiety.

Why some memories are different

Whenever we experience something the information we receive through our senses is processed along with our impressions and interpretations of that event, and then stored in our brains. But when something happens which we experience as threatening or disturbing we respond differently. When the threat response is activated the information about that event is stored in a different part of the brain, without going through the normal memory processing.

These distressing memories seem to be ‘frozen’ in the brain in their ‘raw’ (unprocessed) form. When they are recalled they can be as vivid and as distressing as when they were when first experienced, and may even come back in the form of flashbacks or nightmares.

How EMDR can help

EMDR is a radical new approach which helps the brain process these frozen traumatic memories. It is still unclear how it works, but it involves alternating left-right stimulation of the brain while the person simultaneously recalls the specific memory. This bilateral stimulation seems to encourage the transformation of a distressing ‘raw’ memory into an ordinary ‘processed’ memory. Some people have suggested that it simulates normal REM sleep, in which the eyes move from side to side on their own accord.

EMDR is not normally employed in isolation, but more usually in the context of ongoing therapy. Before utilising the technique the therapist will always assess in detail whether it could be helpful, and discuss the possibilites. Before using the approach the client will have to have worked for a certain period with the therapist to ensure that they feel safe, and that they have the psychological resources to cope outside of the sessions .

YOU remain in control all the time

In an EMDR session the client remains in control throughout, and can stop the work at any point. EMDR does not require the client to give any specific details about the memory merely which memory to work on. At the beginning there is a specific procedure used to assess levels of distress, then the client is asked to think about the specific memory while watching the therapist’s finger move from left to right, or if they prefer, the client is asked to hold a small pulser in the palm of each hand which then pulses from one hand to the other alternately. After a few seconds of this bi-lateral stimulation the client is asked to tell the therapist, very briefly, what has come into their mind, so that the therapist gains a thorough sense of where the process is going. The treatment continues carefully through progressive ‘sets’ of bi-lateral stimulation until the level of distress is reduced to as low a level as possible. It is important that levels of distress are reduced to a manageable point before the end of the session, and therefore sufficient time is always given for the client to feel once calm again. Often people report feeling tired after a session of EMDR.

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