Andrea Thomas MSc (Psychol), MSc (Econ), BA (hons), CTA(p), MBACP, UKCP-reg Counselling and Psychotherapy, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is it?
EMDR is an evidence based treatment recognised by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as the first line of treatment for people suffering with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Clinical trails have found that EMDR is highly effective in helping people who have suffered from trauma which may include a one-off traumatic event such as a car crash or repetitive traumatic experiences over a period of time.

Could it help you?
If you are suffering from the impact of a traumatic experience/s, you may be struggling with symptoms that feel intrusive and limit the quality of your daily life such as; hyper-vigilance, panic attacks, nightmares, repetitive distressing thoughts, numbness or blanking out, flashbacks, irritability, avoidance of situations or places. EMDR has also been found to be effective in treating depressive episodes, phobias, OCD and anxiety which are often caused by previous traumas.

What actually happens?
If the brain’s natural processing system is blocked by the impact of a disturbing event, this means that the memory is stored raw 'live' state and can easily be triggered by unrelated but similar events. The intrusion of these memories can cause emotional suffering, negative self beliefs, unpleasant thoughts and sensations and maladaptive behaviours. The focus of EMDR is to remove these blockages in order to activate the client's natural healing processes.

What happens next?
If our assessment indicates that EMDR is suitable, we will work through a standardised eight-phase treatment protocol to help the brain to process distressing memories, reduce their influence and allow the client to develop more effective ways to get on with their lives. During EMDR sessions, the therapist will will use sets of side to-to-side eye movements, sounds or taps while the client is guided to notice what come to mind. Old distressing memories are transformed into “just normal memories” then stored in such a way that they no longer intrude upon the present or future functioning. The process of EMDR is conducted in a safe and contained way to ensure a positive outcome.

All EMDR sessions last 60 minutes. If you are interested in further information, you may find the following link useful: What is EMDR

Useful Reading:
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. By Francine Shapiro
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. By Bessel van de Kolk
Waking the Tiger. By Peter A Levine
The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment. By Babette Rothschild
Healing The Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors. By Janina Fisher


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