EMDR is recommended by NICE as an effective individual treatment for PTSD or as an adjunct to other recommended therapies and it has also been found to have really positive results for people who have:
- a history of childhood or adult trauma
- medical trauma
- complex and single event trauma
- unexplained medical symptoms
- self-esteem and confidence issues
- obsessive compulsive disorder
- sleep disturbance
- mood disorders
- psychosis or voice hearing
- eating disorders
- panic attacks
- performance anxiety
- disturbing memories
- complicated grief
- dissociative disorders
- body dysmorphic disorders.
- a diagnosis of personality disorder
- dreams or nightmares
Why has EMDR been suggested?
Our brains store memories in a similar way to how a librarian stores books. They are catalogued and filed away in an appropriate place.
Some events, like an accident, disaster, violence or abuse, are so overwhelming that our memories are not stored properly; they remain unprocessed and are not filed away. This means that they are easily accessible and more things can trigger the traumatic memory, causing it to ‘replay’. This means that individuals keep reliving the distress the have experienced.
The mind can often process daily emotional experiences and heal itself naturally during sleep, particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Where a traumatic experience or event occurs this natural healing process may not always take place. EMDR offers a therapeutic way of dealing with feelings and emotions that we have held on to.
People who have completed EMDR often describe the memory/problem as less painful or intense.
How it works
You will have a thorough assessment to explore your individual needs before working with your therapist to build up some coping skills. You will then be asked to focus your attention on your memory or presenting problem. Whilst focussing on the problem the therapist will begin to apply what is known as ‘bilateral stimulation’ which means they will use a method such as following a therapist’s finger with your eyes, alternate sounds or tapping sensations, which is used to enhance memory processing.
What will I need to do?
There are a number of steps involved with EMDR therapy, but put simply, it can be divided into three main phases.
The preparation phase
Your therapist will assist you in developing a range of techniques aimed at stabilising your emotions and prepare you for the next phase of the therapy which is known as processing. This phase can be brief or can last for several weeks it depends on the level of preparation required and the complexity of the problem.
You will be asked to
- identify an image of the worst part of a troubling memory or problem
- identify a negative belief about this memory
- identify emotions and bodily sensations linked to that moment.
The processing phase
You will be asked to think of the image and the belief, while at the same time doing bilateral stimulation. You will be expected to “go with” whatever comes up.
People can often find this part quite strange as processing can occur in the mind or body, so people engaging in this part of EMDR are required to simply report whatever they notice, there is no right or wrong with your responses.
The therapist will guide you through this phase and the main focus will be on allowing whatever ‘comes up to come up’, whilst also keeping your attention on the memory or problem and in the present moment and to reach a point where the memory causes less distress. This can happen in one session, or may take several sessions.
Processing can often continue in between sessions and it may be wise to keep a diary of any insights, or dreams of thoughts/events that occur that you think may be associated with the work you are doing in session.
The therapist will review this at the beginning of every session to assess the progress made; this helps them to monitor progress and changes.
If you would like any further information or have any concerns about this therapy please browse the website for the EMDR association as detailed below; alternatively please speak with your care co-ordinator/therapist or team.