A simple example of this:
Let’s say I love chocolate ice cream. It’s my absolute favourite and I’ll eat it whenever I can. Then one day while I’m eating a chocolate ice cream cone, I get attacked and robbed. Now whenever I eat chocolate ice cream I feel incredibly anxious and fearful. I can’t stop this because my brain has made the association between the ice cream and the attack. There is part of my brain that knows chocolate ice cream isn’t dangerous but it can’t connect with the part of my brain that feels afraid. EMDR will help make this link and explore all my feelings, thoughts and images I have associated with this attack. Eventually this attack will still be a bad memory but without all the associated anxiety and fear. And I’ll be able to eat chocolate ice cream again without fear.
During EMDR you’ll be asked to recall a distressing memory while receiving bilateral stimulation either with lateral eye movement, sounds or hand tapping. This will last for approximately 10 seconds and then you’ll be asked what comes up. The therapy will continue this way until you fully process the memory and new information comes to light. This may sounds strange to start with but clients find it very effective once they get used to it.
Length of treatment will depend on the condition being treated. If it’s a one-time trauma then treatment may be a short as 4-5 sessions. For more complex issues it will last longer. Once an assessment is done, you will be advised how long therapy may need to be.
As with all trauma therapy there is an assessment period during which the trauma and any significant past history is assessed. Then stabilisation methods are used to help you manage heightened emotions and body arousal. Only once you are able to use these effectively will the bilateral stimulation using eye movements or tapping start. In this way EMDR is done in a safe, measured way so you are not re-traumatised.
NICE recommends the use of EMDR for treatment of trauma. It is an evidence based therapy for PTSD and trauma. It is also being used for other conditions and studies are ongoing for these.
EMDR is a type of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro which uses eye movements or other methods of bilateral stimulation to help process traumatic memories and associated symptoms. It is commonly used for Trauma and PTSD although it is also being used successfully for other disorders such as anxiety, phobias and depression.
The theory behind EMDR is that when a traumatic event happens, the memory of this event is stored in part of the brain with the original images, sounds, thoughts and feelings. This old distressing memory just keeps getting triggered over and over again. This prevents learning and healing to take place. These are unprocessed memories. In another part of your brain you have the information you need to heal and make sense of this memory. EMDR helps link these parts of the brain. New information can come to mind and help resolve old problems. This may be what happens in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep or dream sleep when eye movements help process unconscious information.