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(Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)

For more information on EMDR, including introductory videos, please have a look at my Links page.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a very well researched therapeutic approach, carried out by appropriately trained therapists.  It is designed to help our brains and bodies successfully "process" past overwhelming experiences and traumas, so that they no longer hold us back and we can move on with our lives.  It started off, many decades ago now, as a treatment for PTSD in war veterans or those who had experienced major assaults, car accidents etc.  However, it has since expanded, and now there is extensive support for its use in a wide range of condions - phobias, anxiety, depression and addictions and more.

What are the benefits of EMDR?

Have you ever found yourself thinking (or even saying) "I KNOW logically that I'm not stupid/to blame/unsafe, but I still FEEL it!"?  This is a common occurrence, sometimes even after engaging in traditional "talk" therapies.  This is because traumatic or overwhelming memories can be stored in fragments, in different parts of the brain, which cannot talk to eachother the way they should. Even if the logical part of your brain "gets" something, it might not have communicated that to the parts responsible for your gut and your instincts!  So a first major benefit of EMDR is that it targets ALL of these brain areas and helps them communicate and "process" the memory more naturally - sort of like helping your system digest a troublesome morsel of food!  

Secondly, EMDR is not primarily a "talk" therapy, so if you are reluctant to share many details of a painful memory, you may not have to - or at least, not as much as you would in other therapies. What is important in this approach is that YOU are able to notice what thoughts, feelings, images and body sensations come up for you as your EMDR therapist undertakes the bilateral stimulation (BLS). Your EMDR therapist acts more as a guide in the process, keeping you safe and on track. 

Thirdly, EMDR has been shown to be more time-efficient than talk-based therapies, because several areas of the brain are involved at once.  However, the overall time EMDR therapy takes will still depend on a range of factors such as: whether the target or source of difficulties is a single event (e.g. a car crash, an assault) or linked to multiple events (e.g. difficult or abusive upbringing), current life circumstances and any stress management skills (and other "resources") already available to the person.  Longer standing and more complex difficulties may still take many months of regular appointments.  

Will EMDR make me forget the memories we work on?

No.  People who successfully complete EMDR treatment report that they do not lose access to the memories targeted, but they no longer "pack the same punch" emotionally when they think of them. Similar situations or reminders in the present, that may previously have resurrected the same deep pain or hurt as target memory, no longer have the same impact.

OK - so what exactly will happen if we do EMDR therapy?

There are several phases in the standard EMDR protocol, more detail of which can be found here. In brief, taking a good history of the problem and preparing you for EMDR are all important parts of EMDR. However, the best known part of EMDR is the "reprocessing" or "desensitization" part. This is where the EMDR therapist will ask you to hold the target memory in mind and focus on a form of bilateral stimulation (BLS) - usually either by following their fingers moving from side ot side (hence "Eye Movement"), tapping on your knees, or - increasingly since COVID-19) - watching a dot or light move from side to side on a latptop screen. This performs the dual task of maintaining part of your attention safely in the here-and-now, and alternately stimulating each side of your brain - much as happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.