I’ve offered EMDR therapy as a way to help people with healing from trauma since 2019. The primary purpose of EMDR is to help alleviate the intensity and impact of past trauma by reducing the vividness and emotion of certain traumatic memories, however it has also been used to successfully treat anxiety, phobias, addictions, sleep problems and complicated grief.
So even though EMDR therapy is closely associated with treating PTSD, it certainly isn’t limited to that one condition and can be effective in treating multiple different mental health conditions and creating profound change.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
The way EMDR therapy works is by helping the brain to re-process difficult, traumatic memories properly, to stop them from causing so much distress day-to-day and allowing you to live fully in the present.
Often times, traumatic events spawn intense flashbacks, upsetting thoughts or images, anxiety, depression or other distressing manifestations, as the brain becomes overwhelmed and is unable to fully process what is going on and the memory remains unprocessed or becomes “stuck”.
Such unprocessed memories and feelings are stored in the limbic system of your brain in a raw and emotional form, rather than in a verbal "story" mode. This limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is associated with emotions and physical sensations, and which are disconnected from the brain's cortex where we use language to store memories.
Emotions and sensations associated with the event stay present within the brain, and can be triggered by a certain similar stimuli resulting in overwhelming distress, or they can have a pervasive, all-encompassing impact on your mental health and daily functioning.
Even if the original memory has been forgotten, the painful feelings it produced remain stuck and manifest as anxiety, depression, anger and despair day-to-day, impacting your mental wellbeing and your ability to live in the present.
So... what does EMDR actually mean and how can it help you heal from trauma?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing – ‘desensitisation’ referring to the reduction of the vividness and intense emotion associated with the memory, and ‘reprocessing’ referring to the new connections that arise during the treatment.
It involves bringing your traumatic event or memory into focus while you experience “bilateral stimulation” (left-to-right eye movements), although I also use the butterfly hug or tapping as a way to create these movements, especially in Covid times. Eye movements, similar to those during REM sleep, will be recreated simply by asking you to watch the therapist's finger moving backwards and forwards across your visual field.
With repeated sets of eye movements, the memory to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past.
Reprocessing is usually experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt to arise quite naturally from within. As a result, most people experience EMDR as being a natural and empowering therapy.
Is EMDR Right For Me?
So, what are some signs that EMDR might be right for you?
1) You feel ready, willing and able to discuss difficult emotions and past events
EMDR therapy is not meant to re-traumatise you or leave you feeling in any more distress once the treatment is over. However, due to the nature of the treatment, you do need to be aware of, and willing to experience, the strong feelings and disturbing thoughts that may arise during your sessions.
If you think that bringing your traumatic memory/event into focus will seriously trigger you and ultimately cause more harm than good, EMDR therapy will not be appropriate for you at this point in time.
It’s normal to feel a little nervous or apprehensive at the start of EMDR treatment if you don’t know what to expect, but it’s important to be self-aware about your ability to take on and manage the distress that may occur. You feel confident in your ability to manage the feelings that arise with your practitioner.
EMDR therapy takes place in a totally safe, non-judgmental space with a fully trained and qualified practitioner who will be there to support you through the entire process and is regarded as a safe, effective and often empowering form of therapy.
2) You feel as though a past event or mental health condition is stopping you from living your life fully in the present
You’ve lived with the manifestations of your trauma, whether that’s anxiety, depression, dissociation, insomnia, or addiction, for a long time and you’re ready to tackle the root of the problem – processing the physical and emotional memories properly.
You can identify a singular event or a prolonged experience in your life that you feel has majorly impacted on your mental wellbeing and ability to live in the present. You’re ready to take action by creating some healthy distance between you and the experience. You want to re-claim your life, stop living in the past and move forward.
3) You experience intense flashbacks to a painful event
You experience distressing and disruptive flashbacks to a traumatic experience that your brain was unable to process properly.
As well as struggling with managing your mental health day-to-day, the flashbacks you experience are a major source of discomfort and distress for you and you’re ready to take action towards ending them.
3) You’re committed to making changes in your life and experiencing the therapy in it’s entirety
Your recovery journey may require additional, on-going healing work outside of EMDR, whether that’s personal self care or therapeutic work with a practitioner.
Rather than expecting EMDR therapy to be a one-time fix-all, you approach the treatment as one healing tool in your belt and one aspect of your recovery. You are ready to embrace the treatment through all the potential discomfort for the longer-term effects, and you are dedicated and open to growth in other areas of your life.
If this has resonated with you and you’d like to try healing your personal trauma with EMDR, book in a free Discovery call with me here. This initial meeting will allow us to go over your story and pin point your particular needs and evaluate our suitability.
I offer an Overcoming Trauma package which involves bespoke EMDR support. I offer an initial assessment followed by a block of 8 sessions. NICE Guidelines recommend 8-12 sessions, and depending on complexity you may require further sessions going forward.
I am also trained in EMDR for children and in these cases, I use a lot of storytelling in the treatment process to keep it age appropriate. If you are the parent or guardian of a child you feel could benefit from EMDR therapy, please don’t hesitate to book in a Discovery call and we can discuss the next steps.
I would love to connect with you and see how I can best help you on your recovery journey – big transformations are totally possible and they begin with small steps each day.
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