What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new NHS and National Institute for Health Care Excellence recommended treatment.
EMDR is a powerful psychotherapy that has gained recognition from the World Health Organisation as a clinical treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In addition to PTSD, it can help reduce the symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions and is especially effective in treating people affected by post trauma stressor related illness, anxiety related conditions and recurring depression.
In the UK the therapy is now used by the Ministry of Defence in the treatment of military personnel and the emergency services to help staff who have experienced traumatic events or situations.
What can I expect?
When we first meet I will spend time listening to you, your story and parts of your history. This generally includes the distress you are experiencing now. This may include a range of symptoms eg. anxiety, flashbacks or a sense of negativity about yourself. I will also note any medication you've been prescribed and explore the support you have received. If your issue highlights patterns and targets identified as being something EMDR may effectively treat, we will then discuss the EMDR model, theory and its suitability as a treatment model for you.
You are encouraged to ask questions and express any concerns you may have. Before we start the EMDR treatment we will spend some time doing relaxation exercises. These could include a variety of appropriate techniques such 'safe or peaceful place' exercises, guided visualisation, deep muscle relaxation or breathing retraining.
Once we feel that you are sufficiently prepared we can proceed. We then target an early distressing memory with the eye movements or other forms of left-right alternating stimulation, such as sound or tapping. You're asked to select an image that represents the distressing event. You will then be asked to think about negative thoughts relating to the memory which are still present today, your feelings, the amount of distress you feel and where you feel it in your body.
We will then begin the eye movements while you hold the image in mind, noticing the words and the feelings in your body. After each set of eye movements I will ask you what came to mind or what you noticed during the eye movements. During the eye movements you may experience the distressing event quite intensely to start with, but this distress generally reduces as the memory is processed with EMDR.
It can be very challenging and daunting as we are opening up your emotions and experiences of a distressing event but this is always handled at your own pace and tailored to your own feelings and comfort. Each person, their brain and experience is unique and processing throws up very individual pictures and thoughts. Please be assured that as a fully trained and experienced therapist their are a variety of processes and procedures available that are designed to help you overcome these challenges,
We will continue with the eye movements until your distress is reduced as much as possible. This allows for what is called Adaptive Information Processing to occur. The process can involve several questions relating to your thoughts and you may be asked to visualise various scenarios. These requests all aid the processing of the negative material that has become stuck over years.
EMDR is a therapy where you, the client, are required only to notice and say what your experiencing, whatever that is, as we do the work. Your experience is your experience, we need to hear it in a controlled way to encourage your brain to process the negative stuck material. When the thinking and processing is evident you will then be asked to think about any positive thought or perspective and also check whether there is any part of your body where you still feel distress. These also require eye movements at different and varying speed and sets.
Before the end of the session, you will have time to feel calm again, using various relaxation techniques if necessary. As you will appreciate time is required to facilitate this therapy and so the sessions are one and a half hour sessions.
What will I feel like after a session?
EMDR treatment generates a certain amount of 'momentum' to your thinking and conscious awareness. In other words the treatment does not just stop immediately after your session. During your eye movement session a lot of memories may come to mind and people find that after the session they may think about what has occurred in processing.
If these memories are distressing then, for a day or two, you may be aware of waves of emotion. During this time it is recommended that you take care of yourself and use your relaxation techniques to soothe yourself. I am available to provide additional support should the experience become too uncomfortable.
It is strongly suggested that you do not do anything too stressful straight after your EMDR session. People report that after the session they seem to recall a clearer perspective of the event, and some details that they hadn't thought about for a while, or a new aspect altogether. Planning sessions around life events is essential, some clients have opted to have two sessions a week at crucial points or we delay sessions at an appropriate stage in the processing history.
Some people report that they dream more. Everybody is different so keep a note of your experience after the session and discuss this on your return. As the distress decreases with EMDR, people often feel a sense of relief. At the end of therapy, many people report feeling no distress at all when recalling the past event(s),