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Optimism 21

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help with problems such as:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Anxiety Disorder

What is EMDR?

EMDR, is a powerful psychotherapy technique which has been successful in helping people who suffer from trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, post-traumatic stress, substance misuse and many other emotional problems. EMDR is a relatively rapid type of therapy, which can provide lasting relief, and is one of the treatments of choice for PTSD in the NICE guidelines.

What is the theory behind EMDR?

After a distressing or traumatic event, you may feel overwhelmed, which may lead to your memory network becomes ‘stuck’ or ‘frozen’ on a neurological level. This can mean that when you recall the event or situation, you can feel as if you are reexperiencing what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted or felt, and these sensations can be very intense. Sometimes people will do almost anything to avoid experiencing the painful memory, sometimes people are reminded or ‘triggered’ by something into remembering, and sometimes people are subjected to involuntary intrusive thoughts, in ‘flashbacks’ or dreams. If any of these symptoms persist, they can cause significant emotional distress for you. EMDR can help to reduce and stop these symptoms.

What are EMDR sessions like?

The psychotherapist will work gently with you, and ask you to revisit the traumatic moment or incident, recalling feelings surrounding the experience, as well as any negative thoughts, feelings and memories. This will be contained by the psychotherapist, and manageable for you: you will go at your own pace. The therapist will then commence bi-lateral stimulation by tasking you to follow their fingers/hand/a light, depending on your preference, as they move them back and forth like a windscreen wiper. You track the movements as if watching ping pong. The more intensely you focus on the memory, the easier it becomes for the memory to come to life. As quick and vibrant images arise during the therapy session, they are processed by the eye movements, resulting in painful feelings being exchanged for more peaceful, loving and resolved feelings. Some psychotherapists use other methods of bi-lateral stimulation such as tapping on alternate hands or using click sounds. In the process the distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories are less disturbing 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 is not a form of hypnotism.

You will remain conscious and in control at all times.

EMDR cannot be done against your will.

How long with EMDR last?

EMDR typically takes 8 – 16 sessions, each 60-90 minutes in length, but this can vary from person to person. You will usually meet with your therapist weekly at first, reducing to less frequent appointments as sessions progress. Some patients prefer to meet more regularly when engaging in the 'processing' element of EMDR therapy.

What will you do outside your EMDR sessions?

Clients are often tired after an EMDR session. It’s a good idea to rest after a session, if this is possible. The processing may or may not continue after the session. If new insights, thoughts, memories and dreams occur, you will be encouraged to make a note of them, and bring them to your next session. You are encouraged to use your relaxation exercise daily during your course of EMDR , these will be taught to you before processing begins. Many clients feel better very quickly, and experience a reduction in their troubling post-traumatic symptoms. 

What are the symptoms that can be helped by EMDR?

• High anxiety and lack of motivation

• Memories of a traumatic experience

• Fear of being alone

• Unrealistic feelings of guilt and shame

• Poor and disrupted sleep

• Difficulty in trusting others and relationship problems

• Addictions

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