EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing
I offer EMDR to clients at my practice in Selsdon, South Croydon. EMDR can be used for clients that are struggling to overcome one or several traumatic experiences as well many other issues. More about trauma here. I am a qualfied EMDR Therapist, and a member of EMDR Association UK & Ireland, which means I have undertaken accredited EMDR training by the EMDR Academy (accredited by EMDR Europe). I have completed Level 1, 2 and 3.
The types of issues that EMDR can help with includes:
- PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
- Domestic violence
- Combat experience
- Childbirth trauma
- Medical or health anxieties
- Disturbing memories (including non-life-threatening injuries, bullying or harassment and more)
- Childhood abuse (sexual, physcial, emotional or neglect)
- High levels of anxiety
- Low self-worth
What is EMDR
EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. It was developed by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980s. It is now a clinically proven therapy, backed up by research, and recognised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation, as a treatment of choice for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The NHS also offers it as a treatment for PTSD. It can also help for other presenting issues.
EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
Unlike other therapies that focus on directly altering the emotions, thoughts and responses resulting from traumatic experiences, EMDR therapy focuses directly on the memory, and is intended to change the way that the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the problematic symptoms.
In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” The wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.
EMDR therapy differs from other trauma-focused treatments in that it does not include extended exposure to the distressing memory, detailed descriptions of the trauma, challenging of dysfunctional beliefs or homework assignments.
EMDR therapy uses a structured eight-phase approach that includes:
Phase 1: History-taking
This is where I will work with you to really understand your issues and what it is that you want help with.
Phase 2: Preparation
This is where I explain the process to you and what is going to happen. We will discuss grounding and relaxation tools. You will also learn about bilateral stimulation (BLS) which is usually back and forth eye movements (but tactile sensations can also be used) to help the right and left hemispheres with traumatic memories. You will also be able to activate your Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) to help access positive experiences, images, and thoughts.
Phase 3: Assessment (or Activation) of the target memory
This is when you decide which memory you want to target and will be asked for the image, a negative cognition, and a positive cognition. I willl ask you to rate your positive cognition on a scale of 1-7 and the disturbing target from 0-10 as well as describing the experience (but not in a lot of detail).
Phases 4: Processing the memory to adaptive resolution
Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during this part of the treatment. Once it has been determined which memory to target first, you will be asked to hold different aspects of that event or thoughts in mind and to use your eyes to track movements back and forth across your field of vision. I use EMDR equipment, as described here, to help you do this. I use a light bar where you track a moving light with your eyes. Alternatively, if that is too difficult (or not possible due to problems with your eyes) you can use hand held pulsators for tactile stimulation and/or headphones for auditory stimuli with clicks. As this happens, internal associations arise and you will begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. This could last for one or several sessions per memory/incident.
Phase 5: Installation
At this stage, we will install some positive thoughts around the situation or event.
Phase 6: Body scan
At this is point I will ask you to check your body for any residual sensations related to the memory.
Phase 7: Closure
Closure will be provided at the end of a processed memory or session for you to feel better compared to the start of the session. You will use the relaxation and grounding exercises from phase two to manage any difficult feelings or bodily sensations that might arise. I will ask you to look after yourself and to notice any new awareness that comes to mind before the next session.
Phase 8: Evaluating treatment results
We will reevaluate the disturbance levels from your target of the last session to determine if your level is neutral and if your positive cognition is true. If not, we will return to processing. If there is no more distress, we will move to the next memory or complete treatment. Processing of a specific memory is generally completed within one to three sessions.
How long does it take?
EMDR treatment varies in duration, as it will depend on the individual's cirumstances. Single incident adult trauma are often resolved fairly quickly (one specific memory is generally completed within 1-3 sessions), whilst relational childhood trauma will be more complex and take a lot longer due to the amount of incidents and memories, and often requires a lot more preparation to ensure EMDR processing is safe.
How does EMDR work?
No one knows exactly how any form of counselling or psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. What we do know is that when a person is very upset, the brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment can become 'frozen in time', and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings have not changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following successful EMDR treatment, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. One theory is that EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
If you think EMDR might be right for you and you want to start EMDR therapy in Croydon, please contact me.
Here are some useful resources to understand EMDR better:
EMDR in the news