What is Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing
EMDR is a psychological treatment developed to help people deal with distressing events. EMDR aims to change how people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) feel about the traumatic memories, and helps them to develop more positive emotions, behaviour and thoughts. When we are in a traumatic situation and are very upset, the brain cannot process information as it normally does, and the moment becomes “frozen in time”. Remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time. EMDR enables people to recollect the original traumatic experience as a memory that is in the past but is no longer disturbing; it works to reduce or eliminate the effects of trauma.
Several scientific studies have shown that EMDR is effective. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have published guidelines with evidence-based recommendations of care and services for people with a specific condition or need. NICE recommends EMDR and CBT for the treatment of PTSD.
If you have had a single incident, e.g. a recent car accident leading to fear of driving, the average treatment can be 8 to 12 sessions of EMDR, possibly combined with some sessions of CBT. EMDR is also effective in the treatment of people who have suffered trauma such as ongoing childhood abuse, although this may require more extensive therapeutic time.
What is Involved in a Course of Therapy?
During EMDR you will be helped to examine your memories of a trauma, including all negative thoughts, feelings and sensations experienced at the time of the trauma. While doing this, the therapist will assist you in making guided eye-movements which stimulates powerful brain activity. After each set of eye movements you will be asked what you have noticed, and subsequently instructed to uncritically follow your thoughts and associations. This often leads to retrieval of old memories, rapid insights, and a systematic letting go of the traumatic event and the symptoms associated with it. What happened is still remembered, but it is less upsetting.
EMDR includes the teaching of self-calming techniques and skills for managing flashbacks, for use during and between sessions.