Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a powerful and transformational psychotherapy that is recommended by NICE and many other international bodies for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is widely practiced at the NHS. Alongside its proven effectiveness for PTSD and Trauma, there are many published peer reviewed studies showing its effectiveness with phobias, different anxiety disorders, grief, low self-esteem, complex trauma, chronic pain, addictions, anger, addiction etc.
EMDR has been designed specifically to help us process the threat-based experiences that have been stored in our brain and/or the nervous system. It does so through the use of specialised techniques and protocols which engage our 'adaptive information processing system' and help us restore our nervous system to balance. Changes are achieved on a neurological level, and whilst past memories cannot be erased, they can lose their emotional charge. If the client is not able to remember the past event, we are typically able to work with the presenting complaint directly and access the body memory via different channels. The process is quick and more comfortable than in standard talking therapies and the result is that the client begins to feel less anxious, more confident and comfortable in their own skin.
EMDR can be practiced as a standalone therapy or in conjunction with CBT.
We typically think of psychological Trauma to be caused by serious life incidences such as abuse, death, violence and accidents, yet not many people realise that situations such as relationship breakdowns; bereavements; bullying; ongoing stress at work; toxic relationships; health and medical problems - can all leave a trauma-like imprint on our body and mind. In addition, consistent lack of support in early childhood, unsupportive early relationships, lack of clear boundaries - can lead to what psychologists call developmental traumas.
Yet no two people react to trauma and stress in the same way and this is because we are all born with different levels of temperamental sensitivity. The more sensitive we are, the more soothing and protection we need from our carers to buffer the effect of the outside world on our nervous system. Unfortunately we can’t be protected from everything at all times, and when the size of the response of our nervous system exceeds our level of tolerance, this might result in a trauma. Because the mind and the nervous system become overwhelmed, our mind physically struggles to process the memory and this is why we might continue feeling anxious, angry or helpless for a long time, even though the situation has passed. It is this inability of the brain to process these overwhelming threat-based memories that explains why trauma memories often feel raw, vivid and emotionally charged.
Unfortunately unresolved and unprocessed traumas can linger and produce symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, restlessness, dizziness, inability to relax, an urge to keep busy, feelings of helplessness, urge to withdraw and hide, thoughts that we can’t cope, are not good enough, difficulty asking for help and trusting people, shame, guilt, anger and sometimes even emotional and/or physical numbness and in extreme circumstances flashbacks, nightmares and dissociation. What makes it tricky is that often we no longer remember the trauma, instead our body remembers it in the muscles and the nervous system. Yet when we have no explanation for how we feel, we begin to blame ourselves for our negative thoughts and emotions and we struggle to recognise that our symptoms are in fact normal signs of Trauma.