What Is EMDR?

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. It is a method of trauma therapy developed in the late 1980’s by clinical psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro. This “adaptive information processing” therapy model proposes that human beings process information. This is stored in memory networks and trauma memories may sometimes be processed in a “dysfunctional” way.

Being a resource orientated method which causes neural changes in the brain, EMDR facilitates both self–healing and self–development. It is one of the most effective treatments currently available for PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder and stress following relational trauma and abusive relationships.

Not only does it facilitate the healthy processing of traumatic memories but allows a cognitive restructuring, a re-evaluation of the experience as we all as a changed attitude regarding one’s self and one’s own resources.

EMDR is a method that accelerates the processing of traumatic, frozen memories and resolves fixed behavioural patterns. It’s based on the humanistic approach which assumes that humans have a natural desire to grow and to integrate experiences.

The guided EMDR process supports the precise observation and differentiated experiencing of internal processes. Also, as a reflective understanding of links and connections. Clients will often gain insights into themselves which are linked to traumatic memories. This empowers them to comprehend new thoughts, ideas and beliefs.

EMDR for PTSD

Shapiro noticed during a walk in the park one day in 1987, that when she moved her eyes back and forth between the trees, she experienced a reduction in distressing thoughts. This began her research into eye movement therapy. At the end of 1987 her first study was published showing the efficacy of this therapy when used on patients diagnosed with PTSD. The published results showed a significant decrease in levels of distress in the treatment group when compared to the control group.

In 1989 EMDR was first deployed as a therapeutic method of work for war trauma victims. Since the 1990’s it’s been successfully used as a method of trauma therapy worldwide.

What Happens During a Session?

During a session, you will be guided through the process of exploration and processing of negative memories in order to bring them to an adaptive resolution. It is a method that utilises bilateral stimulation (left / right brain) through guided movements to influence neural pathways, re-evaluate cognitions and emotions and initiate self- healing.

The reprocessing of distressing memories is accomplished as follows:

  • You concentrate on their inner experience whilst focusing on distressing memories
  •  At the same time you direct your attention to an external stimulus, the bilateral stimulation
  • You assume the role of observer throughout this process meaning that you can create emotional distance between yourself and the traumatic event

Successful EMDR reduces nervous system arousal, lowers distress and reformulates negative self -beliefs and cognitions. Many clients claim to experience an immediate sense of relief after a course of EMDR. They are able to recall the event in a neutral way without the previous associated emotional charge. Some clients report back saying that they feel a sense of space and distance from the traumatic memory. Sometimes a sense of having a “higher and changed perspective”.  This is often accompanied by a sense of empowerment  and new found sense of certainty and safety.

A typical treatment protocol will  last between 6 to 12 sessions. The first few sessions focus solely on teaching you emotional resourcing techniques. This helps to regulate the nervous system allowing you to feel calm, centred and grounded again.

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