EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing

What is EMDR?

EMDR was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro who discovered by coincidence that certain eye movements had a positive effect on her own unpleasant memories. She conducted a research trial with people diagnosed as experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The results of this study (1989), showed EMDR delivered a rapid, therapeutic response. On-going research has supported the evidence that EMDR is fast and effective. The range of difficulties it is now used for has widened out into anxiety disorders and problems grounded in early emotional trauma or abuse.

How does EMDR work?

Research continues to try and answer this question. Currently the most common hypothesis is that EMDR mimics the information processing done by the brain during REM sleep. Work in PTSD tends to suggest that PTSD is partially generated by the brain’s inability to process the information presented during a trauma. The unprocessed trauma information appears to replay repeatedly in the form of flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive memories but does not get processed to become a memory like our other memories. It seems EMDR may stimulate the brain into doing the information processing necessary to turn trauma memories into ordinary memories.

EMDR is not hypnosis. No trance state is induced, no suggestions are made – you are in control of the process.

Research has shown that EMDR can benefit:

  • Psychological traumas
  • Road traffic accidents
  • Assaults
  • Work related accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Unable to move on from a previous relationship
  • Fixed belief systems

It has now also been found to be beneficial to anxiety based problems and depression.

How can it help you?

I often find myself wondering why people still suffer from trauma symptoms these days when we have such great techniques to help people process trauma, if you’re living with trauma symptoms like those listed below, try EMDR it can’t be worse than living with the symptoms.

If you have had a trauma or anxiety based problems EMDR may be useful for you.  It is not a stand-alone therapy; it is used in conjunction with the other therapeutic approaches I use.

Do you have any of the following?

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Hypervigilance to danger
  • Startle response
  • Intrusive images

All of these can be helped by EMDR.

Further reading

  • A good introduction to EMDR  is : ‘EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress & Trauma’ by Francine Shapiro and Margot Silk Forrest
  • A helpful book about Trauma & PTSD is ‘Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma’ by Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick

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