EMDREMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.
Research has demonstrated its benefits in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as childhood sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect, natural disaster, war related experiences, assault, surgical trauma, road traffic accidents and workplace accidents.
EMDR is also increasingly used to help individuals with other issues, including phobias and OCD.
How does EMDR work?When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level. When a person recalls the distressing memory, the person can re-experience what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted or felt, and this can be quite intense. Sometimes the memories are so distressing, the person tries to avoid thinking about the distressing event to avoid experiencing the distressing feelings.
Some find that the distressing memories come to mind when something reminds them of the distressing event, or sometimes the memories just seem to just pop into mind. The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system.
In the process the distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories are less distressing and seem more like 'ordinary' memories. The effect is believed to be similar to that which occurs naturally during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) when your eyes rapidly move from side to side. EMDR helps reduce the distress of all the different kinds of memories, whether it was what you saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt or thought.
EMDR has been found to be of benefit to children as well as adults. We do not yet offer EMDR for children at The Horsforth Centre.
How many sessions will you need?The number of sessions depends upon the specific problem and client history. However, repeated controlled studies have shown that a single trauma can be processed within 3 sessions in 80-90% of the participants. While every disturbing event need not be processed, the amount of therapy will depend upon the complexity of the history.
What will happen during a session?EMDR is not simply the use of eye movements. Rather it is a comprehensive therapeutic approach with principles, protocols and procedures with the goal of reducing distress in the shortest period of time.
When you first meet with your EMDR therapist, your therapist will spend time getting to know your history. This generally includes the kind of distress you are experiencing, the kind of diffulties have you experienced, if you have physical problems, if you are taking medication and explore the support you have. If your therapist feels EMDR is suited for your difficulty, the s/he will describe the EMDR model to you and explain the theory.
Your therapist will spend some time doing some relaxation exercises with you, which could include 'safe or pleasant place' exercises, guided visualisation, deep muscle relaxation, breathing retraining etc.
Once you and your therapist feel that you are sufficiently prepared, you can then target a distressing memory with the eye movements or other forms of left-right alternating stimulation, such as sound or taps. Your therapist will ask you to select an image that represents the distressing event. You will then be asked to think about negative and positive thoughts, your feelings, the amount of distress you feel and where you feel it in your body.
Your therapist will then begin the eye movements while you hold the image in mind. After each set of eye movements your therapist 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.
Your therapist will continue with the eye movements until your distress is reduced as much as possible. Your therapist will then ask you to think about your positive thought and also check whether there is any part of your body where you still feel distress. Before the end of the session, your therapist will give you time to feel calm again, using the safe-pleasant place exercise or relaxation techniques.
Will my therapist use any equipment?Eye movements can be created manually by your therapist moving his/her fingers back and forth across your visual field. However, the eye movements can also be created using a 'light bar', in which you follow a light that moves back and forth across a metal bar.
Some therapists use auditory bilateral stimulation, in which they click their fingers alternating from ear to ear. These clicks can also be created through headphones and you can listen to a range of alternating sounds. Some therapist use music to create the alternating sound which you can also listen to with headphones.
Other therapists use tactile bilateral stimulation, in which they tap your hands alternating. To create a similar effect, some therapists use small vibrating items that you can hold in your hands, and this vibrates alternating from one hand to another.
Is EMDR a form of hypnotism?EMDR is not a form of hypnotism. Even though you are moving your eyes during EMDR you will remain conscious AND in control at all times. EMDR cannot be done against your will. Besides eye movements, auditory or tactile bilateral stimulation can also be used to create the same effect.
Auditory bilateral stimulation is created by sound alternating from ear to ear. Tactile bilateral stimulation is produced by alternating taps that you can feel.