EMDR was developed by Dr Francine Shapiro in 1987.
Whilst watching squirrels in a park she noticed that when she followed them with her eyes, some upsetting feelings she was having became noticeably less intense.
This unexpected discovery became the basis of a highly effective new therapy to relieve anxiety.
It was initially used to treat post traumatic stress, but is now used all over the world to treat many other kinds of long and short term anxiety conditions:
- Angry outbursts
- Exam stress
- Performance or social anxiety
- Bereavement and guilt
- Performance anxiety
- Chronic pain, where bodily healing is complete but pain remains in the pain centre of the brain.
People suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviours or personal/sexual relationship difficulties are also frequently found to have unresolved underlying trauma and so can be very effectively helped with EMDR.
How does it work?
Normally our brains process thoughts and feelings while we are dreaming - which is when we get periods of rapid eye movements (REM sleep). These eye movements indicate that the left and right sides of the brain are working together to 'digest' the experiences of the day.
If something happens to us which is very emotionally intense, the brain can become overwhelmed and unable to work in this normal way. The experience gets 'stuck' in the brain, creating ongoing anxiety and a feeling of being constantly 'on guard'. This can continue to affect us long after events have actually happened, leaving us afraid to face anything similar in the future.
In EMDR we move the eyes quickly back and forth while concentrating on a difficult memory, thus kick-starting our natural information processing capacity. The memory remains but its emotional charge is shifted and we can remember or be reminded of it without distress.
What will it be like?
There are several stages:
- Assessment. We will discuss your problem and decide what memories are linked to the symptoms you are having. Sometimes this is obvious, but often people are not consciously aware of what the links might be, so I will help you make the connections.
- Preparation. I will teach you skills and techniques to help you handle the feelings and memories we are going to work on. This will help you feel calmer straight away and also give you confidence to manage the next stage.
- Processing. I will help you to recall the memories and apply rapid eye movements while you explore them. You will notice that your anxiety gradually reduces in intensity until you can reflect on the situation without feeling distress.
- Evaluation. We will keep talking about your progress and identify what other memories you might need to process. We will also identify future events or situations that you want to be able to manage better and imagine those, too, with eye movements, so that your anxiety about them fades and you can handle things more calmly.
How long does it take?
This will depend on the complexity of your problem and how long it has been going on. EMDR can work surprisingly quickly because we are targeting the exact problem in the brain and not having to talk at length about it. Most people need around 12 sessions to complete the processing of past memories and prepare themselves for similar situations in the future, that they might have been avoiding or worrying about.
Does it work?
EMDR has been thoroughly researched for over ten years now and although it may sound rather unusual at first, it is a fully recognised and reliable treatment. It is recommended in the NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines as the treatment of choice for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Because it has proved to be so effective it is continually being developed, and is now successfully used to relieve many other areas of human worry, too, not just the problems which follow a specific, memorable traumatic event. Many things which trouble us have links to the past which are not immediately obvious because they are more subtle or out of our awareness. We may be trying to manage this distress with alcohol, drugs, eating disorders etc, or we may simply feel anxious and can’t really explain why.
EMDR therapy will help you make the relevant links with the past so that we can target the exact sources of the problem rather than just talk about your symptoms.
You are welcome to phone 07813 077915 or email
me to find out if EMDR could help you with your own particular difficulties.