Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is primarily a trauma-based therapy. EMDR therapy stimulates both the left and right sides of the brain, using a range of techniques including hand movements, alternating lights or vibrating sensors, while the client recalls the event which is the cause of the trauma (or traumas).
How does EMDR help?
Imagine watching a film back in your mind of a traumatic incident, and pausing at the worst moment: the part that really encapsulates the trauma. That’s what we get our patients to do, replaying it in their mind. We ask them to notice something in the past, and then notice something in the present. We call it bilateral stimulation.
We do this because the part of our brain that processes trauma, the reptilian part of our brain, doesn’t know how to handle the incident and can’t store it as a memory. CBT can help it to do this. It can be particularly helpful in treating eating disorders, and sometimes we combine treatment with EMDR. There is often an element of trauma attached to eating disorders: in some cases it could be bullying (an existential threat) or abuse that has triggered it.
What can you expect from a session?
Some people don’t want to talk about what is troubling them. Some people don’t fully know. That’s not a problem with EMDR because it enables us to work blind to the actual issue: sometimes we work with people and treat them without needing to discuss any of the specifics of the trauma.
For the National Institute of Clinical Excellent (NICE), this is its preferred form of treatment for trauma. It works using small gestures like finger movements, tapping and sound, so it can work remotely through a screen (if you can’t make a 121 session, for example).
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“It’s a way of helping your brain process it as memory. We use it a lot and the results can be relatively quick and really powerful. When you use talking therapy (e.g. counselling) to treat trauma you are dealing with the rational part of the mind, and it can be effective. For some people though this won’t be enough. EMDR helps you treat the irrational part of the mind as well, which you also need to treat, through guiding someone’s internal experience.”
Richard Reid – CEO, Therapist & Coaching Psychologist