EMDR and Trauma
"The EMDR sessions have definitely increased my confidence. I'm no longer worrying so much about what other people think. I've been making huge steps, doing things where before I felt held back from lack of confidence. Thank you!"
Michael Arnold, Acupuncturist
What can EMDR help with?
Traumas as a result of:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- violent crime
OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
What is EMDR?
EMDR (or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) was developed around 25 years ago by American psychologist Francine Shapiro. It is a powerful therapy for people who suffer from psychological symptoms following traumatic events. These events can range from a single accident to repeated traumas (for example, in the case of adults who were abused as children).
EMDR is now used all over the world, and has been recognised by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), the World Health Organisation and the American Psychiatric Association as one of the leading therapies in the treatment of trauma.
Do you still feel greatly disturbed when you think about something that has happened to you?
In the most extreme case you may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If so, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms: recurring nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, depression.
You may find that there are triggers that continue to upset or startle you. You may feel constantly on edge, jumpy, expecting something bad to happen. This can lead to difficulties with sleep and concentration, and can make you irritable and easily angered.
You may find that you are avoiding anything that brings back a disturbing memory. This may lead you to restrict what you do; even whom you see. This can, in turn, leave you feeling isolated and depressed.
You may not suffer from an extreme case of PTSD, but you may still feel there are particular incidents in your life that continue to disturb you, however much you reassure yourself that they are in the past. You may feel silly, upset and angry with yourself; you may feel ashamed that you can’t seem to move on; or you may criticise yourself for allowing the incident to have happened at all.
These thoughts and feelings are common responses to traumatic events; they are not evidence of weakness.
How long does it take?
Some people who have been traumatised by a single incident find it takes them no more than three or four sessions for their disturbance to dissolve. For others it may take longer, depending in part on the severity and/or number of distressing events.
How does EMDR work?
There is a great deal of research into the neurological basis for EMDR, and many clinical studies that have proven its efficacy.
So, how does it work in practice?
The symptoms of trauma are notoriously difficult to shift. No matter how a person tries to overcome the feelings and behaviour associated with the trauma, nothing seems to make a positive difference. It is as if trauma becomes lodged in the brain and body in an isolated ‘bubble’.
Whereas other therapies often bring insight, this is not always enough to change the emotion. For example, you may know that you were the victim in a case of violence or rape - and yet continue to feel guilt or shame.
The process of EMDR can allow you to understand that you were not to blame for something that happened to you – in fact, not only understand, but feel and accept this in your body. Even if you were in some way implicated in the event, EMDR can help you gain more insight into whatever was disturbing you, and let go of it.
The aim of the therapy is to dissolve the ‘trauma bubble’.
During the therapy you may find that you remember details, sensations, emotions and thoughts from the original trauma. We will not delve into these, but will allow them to come and go.
The process starts to dissolve the ‘bubble’ of trauma, allowing new thoughts, feelings and insights to flow. By the end of the process, not only will the negative feelings from the memory have faded, but you will feel stronger than you could have imagined at the beginning.
What happens during an EMDR session?
The basis of the therapy is that the therapist stimulates both hemispheres of the client’s brain while the client recalls a trauma. A number of simple techniques are used for this stimulation; most commonly, the therapist moves her fingers across the client’s visual field, and the client follows them with his/her eyes. Researchers believe that this bilateral stimulation replicates the way the brain naturally integrates our daily experiences during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
Before we attempt to ‘unpack’ the trauma using these techniques, there are a number of preparation sessions to make sure you understand the process, that you feel safe, and that you are comfortable using relaxation techniques.
Who can be helped by EMDR?
As EMDR continues to evolve as a therapy, therapists can now treat people with anxiety disorders, intense anger, phobias, panic attacks, addictions, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, grief, pain and even procrastination.
How I work
Depending on what brings you to therapy, I can either work with you using EMDR therapy alone, or I may use it alongside a more traditional talking and exploring therapy.
How long are the sessions?
My session for standard therapy is 50 minutes. However, when using EMDR to process trauma it is often helpful to book a longer session – say, from 65 to 100 minutes - and to arrange the charge accordingly.