What is EMDR?
EMDR is a therapeutic technique originally developed to successfully treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) works by helping the brain process traumatic memories and experiences so that we can stop being affected by them now and in the future.
What is trauma ?
A single traumatic event (a car accident, an assault) or repeated distressing experiences (eg. childhood neglect or abuse, domestic violence, bullying) causes emotional shock. After trauma, it is quite normal to experience all kinds of unpleasant feelings, emotions, and body sensations, even long after the traumatic period, such as:
How does EMDR work?
Our brain is unable to process the traumatic events like a normal memory. Instead of feeling that it is over and in the past, it seems to remain vividly real as if it were recent or still happening. When we are reminded of that trauma, we may experience the same feelings and behaviours.
Using left-right brain stimulation by eye movements or tapping, EMDR stimulates the brain’s frozen information processing system. The trauma memories lose their intensity, becoming less vivid and distressing and more like ‘ordinary’ memories from the past.
As a result of traumatic experiences, we often develop unhelpful, negative beliefs in order to make sense of what happened. For example, ‘I’m not safe’, ‘I’m to blame’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I can’t trust anyone’. These self-beliefs influence our thoughts, behaviours and feelings about life in general. EMDR helps challenge these negative self-beliefs by accessing more helpful, positive memories and feelings to develop a more positive, realistic self-belief: ‘I’m good enough’ or ‘I did my best’.
EMDR is now used in the treatment of a wide range of psychological and emotional problems. The model for this is that many of our difficulties are rooted in experiences in the past that have been emotionally overwhelming. These can be seen as a kind of trauma and so EMDR can help us to identify the core events and then process them psychologically so that they no longer influence how we experience the present.
EMDR can be used to treat issues including: