What is Trauma and how might EMDR help?
What is Trauma?
Psychological trauma is damage to the mind that occurs as a result of distressing, overwhelming events. Usually, over time, the memory will fade into the past and we will no longer have strong feelings about it. Our minds have processed the trauma.
However sometimes these events do not get processed and seem to get stuck in the part of the brain associated with emotions and physical sensations; though the events happened a long time ago, the memories and the distress they caused can get triggered in the present.
For example, a soldier who saw his friends blown up by a road side bomb several years ago might feel terror if he hears a car backfire outside his home now. He might tremble and dive for cover. He is struggling with PTSD. Childhood neglect or abuse, bullying, physical shocks to the system, any such overwhelming past situation may still be triggered by something reminiscent happening in the present and prevent us from experiencing the present as it is now.
How can trauma be treated?
One of the treatments for trauma is EMDR, a therapy which is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for PTSD and it can be used for anxiety, panic attacks, stress, phobias, depression and sleep problems.
What is EMDR?
In 1987 Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) which seems to work like the natural coping mechanism which occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, where our eyes move back and forth as we dream.
What is an EMDR session like?
EMDR uses the natural healing ability of your body with a process called Bilateral Stimulation. The therapist might get you to follow their finger going from left to right before your eyes or use moving lights or sounds that go back and forth from one ear to another.
After discussing your symptoms, you would use sets of eye movements to process a minor upsetting incident. When you feel comfortable doing this you can use the same procedure to tackle more distressing memories. With repeated sets of eye movements, the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also heal at the same time.
Will I remain in control and empowered?
Yes, during EMDR treatment you will remain in control, fully alert and wide awake and you can stop the process if you want to. The therapist supports and facilitates your own self-healing and intervenes as little as possible.
How many sessions should I have?
Some clients will require a limited number of 3 to 8 sessions to process distressing events while others might decide to use the process alongside other more long-term therapy.
If you are interested in using EMDR in our sessions I will explain the process more fully.