EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing 

Specialist Treatment for Trauma,
All Kinds of Abuse, PTSD, Some Phobias &
Other Issues which may have given rise to Anxiety and Depression.

What Is It Exactly?

EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing. It has, since its early beginnings, been heavily researched and undergone randomised control trials proving its effectiveness for trauma. It is now recommended in the UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (the NICE guidelines), by the World Health Organisation and also the American Psychiatric Association for trauma and also for full-blown PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
EMDR treatment originated in the USA and is attributed to the work of the psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro, starting in the late 1980’s. It has now spread throughout much of the world and has been adapted for use in many different mental health conditions. The standard of training in this therapy is upheld in the UK by the professional body called EMDR Association UK & Ireland - Please Click Here

 Training approved by this professional body is generally only open to mental health professionals who already have undergone in-depth training, attained accredited status and a few years of experience.

What Is The Theory Behind It?

When we experience difficult and unpleasant life events, if the brain is functioning in a healthy way, several things happen. Over a few weeks (depending on the severity and frequency of the trauma) our inner information processing system allows us to feel the emotions and attendant bodily sensations, assess, make sense of them and take the constructive learning from the disturbing situation. The constructive learning can either be about ourselves, others or the world. We then are able to move on with no further upset. Memories remain but the disturbing emotional and bodily reactions are no longer there when thinking of the event.

However, when unpleasant and horrible life events are overwhelming and in some cases repeated over and over, our information processing system can cease to function properly. The memory plus the emotional and physical feelings associated with the original event are frozen and split off from the conscious thinking and rational processing part of the brain.  Full information processing fails to occur. The pictures, feelings and sensations get stuck in the body and the unconscious mind. The memories sometimes replay over and over in the form of nightmares and flashbacks or uncontrollable reactions in daily life if inadvertently triggered by innocent events or people; alternatively, they get buried only to resurface years later.

Shapiro conceptualised that healing occurs through the proper functioning of the Adaptive Information Processing system. She postulated that this is a physiologically and neurologically based system which allows for difficult and unpleasant experiences, in normal circumstances, to be processed or digested in a way which leads back to a state of wellbeing.  However, when an event is so overwhelming and completely outside of ordinary experience, or repeated over and over again as in childhood abuse for example or wartime atrocities, the brain simply cannot cope and the AIP system breaks down and healthy functioning ceases.

How Does EMDR Work In Practice?

In the first sessions the presenting problem is discussed and a detailed background history is then taken from the person seeking help. It is important to place the presenting problem in the person’s life context, as earlier, unresolved difficult experiences are sometimes re-stimulated and emerge as a result of more recent ones. This may take 2-4 sessions or it may take many months if the trauma is deep and long-standing going back to childhood. If the latter is the case then it is necessary to prepare the traumatised person by helping them to build and feel their inner strength through recalling and building upon internal positive resources and also helping them to find ways of self-soothing in a difficult situation.

When ready, the person is then asked to think of a specially determined target memory or memories in a certain way whilst following one of several possible bi-lateral stimuli. These could include following the therapist’s fingers moving from left to right so that the brain is stimulated through the eyes, or, a headset may be used to place alternating sounds in the ears or pulsars may be held in the hands which create a pulsation in alternate palms. It is the bilateral stimulation of the brain through any of these (or other) methods which is an intrinsic part of the healing process. The client would then observe and report back the movement of their inner processes to the therapist, such as their thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, insights and so on taking place in the body-mind. This is carried out in a very gentle and respectful way, enabling emotional change at a deep physiological and neurological level.

The whole process has 8 stages to go through to completion and resolution which includes the installation of a positive belief or self-statement once the painful memories are no longer disturbing.
The process as described above sounds deceptively straightforward, which of course it is some of the time. However, there are often various types of conscious and unconscious blockages which have to be overcome with the therapist’s help before the target memory or memories are fully resolved.

Overall, it is generally found that this style of therapy is more efficient and aids recovery from trauma or post-traumatic stress much quicker than a conventional course of psychotherapy or counselling for this kind of problem. According to various studies it also has a much better success rate in the long term thus preventing relapse or the need for further help.

For anyone who would like more information about Physical, Emotional and Psychological Abuse of any kind, please see my EMDR and Trauma website. Please CLICK HERE
The charity called Mind have produced a very useful leaflet about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues which you can find by Clicking Here.
There is also a lot of useful additional information about EMDR available from the following website:
EMDR Association UK & Ireland

BACP          UKCP