About EMDR Psychotherapy.

As an experienced Systemic Psychotherapist for over 20 years, I was initially sceptical about this therapeutic approach. EMDR sounded magical and too good to be true! Fortunately, a colleague convinced me to begin my training in 2011. I have found it to be an effective treatment to reduce the distressing impact of traumatic memories such as sexual assault, serious accidents, medical interventions, witnessing domestic violence and parental mental illness, experiencing neglect or suffering the impact of separation and loss.

It was originally developed in the 1980’s by Dr Francine Schapiro, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mental Research Institute in San Francisco. EMDR can effectively heal a range of difficulties including post traumatic stress, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, sleep difficulties and complicated grief reactions.

What happens when you are traumatised?

Most of the time your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something out of the ordinary occurs and you are traumatised by an overwhelming event (e.g. a car accident) or by being repeatedly subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect), your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining frozen in your brain or being "unprocessed".

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. The limbic system’s traumatic memories can be continually triggered when you experience events similar to the difficult experiences you have been through.

Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are continually triggered in the present. Your ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences can therefore become inhibited. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way.

What is an EMDR session like?

EMDR utilises the natural healing ability of your body. After a thorough assessment, you will be asked specific questions about a particular disturbing memory. 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. The eye movements will last for a short while . You will then be asked to report back on the experiences you have had during each of these sets of eye movements. Experiences during a session may include changes in thoughts, images and feelings.

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. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvement in many aspects of your life.

The two previous excerpts are adapted from www.getselfhelp.co.uk

For further information about EMDR visit the official EMDR Association website :

emdrassociation.org.uk (see link on my home page).