I have been an EMDR clinician for 8 years and helped many clients with a variety of problems, such as;
1) Phobias with, spiders, water, being sick, open or enclosed spaces, injections, dental treatment, flying, blood, cars, dirt etc.
2) OCD, panic attacks, anxiety, eating disorders, public speaking and depression.
3) Car accidents, (RTAs)
4) PTSD, with regards to flashbacks, rape, electrocution, torcher, war, abuse (various), childbirth, serious injury, post-cancer, etc.
5) Somatic pains, bed wetting, historical issues, lack of confidence, negative and false beliefs about oneself, post operation problems etc.
I use EMDR as either a stand-alone therapy for more acute and specific issues or as part of my wider integrative counselling for issues that may arise during our time together.
As with any therapy, there are no guarantees, but in over 8years of using EMDR, I have found that the results have been consistently solid and on several occasions, life-changing.
It is an extremely effective treatment for children as well as adults who have had traumatic experiences, (or not so traumatic).
Why Can Trauma Effects Last So Long?
This has to do with the way the brain processes information when trauma occurs. Understanding how ordinary memories are formed can help us understand how traumatic memories form. Usually, when something happens, your eyes, ears and other senses are the first to respond. This information is then stored as memories. Memories usually have a story-like quality and contain your impressions and interpretations as well as facts about what happened.
When something dangerous happens, your body and brain respond in a different way (trauma responses). Your body recognises the emergency and takes protective action. Its messages to the brain are put into an emergency store, often without going through normal memory processing. These experiences, with the original sounds, thoughts and feelings are recorded in the brain as raw, unprocessed information. Sometimes the brain does not process them in the normal way to form ordinary memories. They are stored in a different part of the brain (amygdala).
Traumatic memories become ‘locked’ in the brain in their raw form. When these memories are recalled, they are very upsetting. Sometimes, they can be triggered apparently out of the blue causing flashbacks, nightmares and outbursts. They can make it very difficult to deal with ordinary stressful situations in the calm and reasonable way we normally would.
The Effects of Trauma on Children.
Sometimes the traumas a child experiences are easy to see, such as a death or road traffic accident, but others are not so obvious. Sometimes you know what they are but your child does not. The traumas may have taken place so early in life that a child may not remember them or may have pushed them out of mind or ‘forgotten’ them. Even when children do not remember traumatic experiences, they can sometimes show their effects through their behaviour. Sometimes these forgotten, repressed memories from childhood stay there for years or even decades and then for sometimes no apparent reason hit us from no-where.
(EMDR) stands for “eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing” which basically means it desensitises intrusive pictures, smells, sounds, emotions, sensations and pain and then reprocesses the event/events and or the negative beliefs you have about yourself. It seems to ‘unblock’ the brain’s processing so that traumatic memories become ordinary ones.
We do not know exactly how this treatment works but does have to do with the alternating left-right stimulation of the brain or with REM sleep, in which the eyes often move from side to side on their own. The eye movements or bi-lateral stimuli helps to process the unconscious material.
It is the non-traditional type of psychotherapy and is growing in the area of trauma and other negative based experiences, whether small t traumas or big T traumas. It has become widely used in relation to treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and one of the treatments recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). It can also be helpful for a variety of emotional and behaviour problems in adults and children. PTSD often occurs after experiences such as military combat, physical assault, rape, or car accidents.
EMDR’s approach to psychological issues is different from the “usual” way of counselling. It does not rely on talking, creative, cognitive or other therapies, or on medications. Instead, EMDR uses bi-lateral stimulation by using clients own rapid, rhythmic eye movements, the use of bi-lateral tapping or use of sounds to reduce and remove the charged pictorial and emotional memories of past traumatic events.
What Can You Expect From EMDR?
If you suffer from PTSD or any of the other areas above what can you expect during an EMDR treatment session? (Specific sessions for PTSD can last up to 90 minutes). There are three ways in which I could use EMDR depending on the preference of my client.
1) I will either move my fingers back and forth in front of your face and ask you to follow these motions with your eyes.
2) I will use alternate tapping with my hands (left-right) on your shoulders, hands or knees.
3) Or use sounds that will alternate left-right from ear to ear.
Whichever format we decide upon, I will ask you to recall the disturbing event which has left you with your intrusive memories. This will include the emotions and body sensations that accompany it.
Gradually, I will guide you to shift your negative thoughts to more neutral ones.
Using EMDR can weaken the effect of negative thoughts and emotions. Before and after each EMDR treatment, we will explore and ask you to rate your level of distress, also the strength of the negative thoughts (if there are any). The theory is that the intensity of your disturbing memories will become less disabling and disappear, also that the false/negative thoughts will be no more.
What Do the Guidelines Recommend?
Guidelines issued by more and more professional organisations have recently boosted the credibility of EMDR. These guidelines define who may benefit from the treatment. For example:
As above it is recommended by the UK`s Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
• The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has noted that EMDR is effective for treating symptoms of acute and chronic PTSD. According to the APA, EMDR may be particularly useful for people who have trouble talking about the traumatic events they`ve experienced.
• The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defence have jointly issued clinical practice guidelines. These guidelines "strongly recommended" EDMR for the treatment of PTSD in both military and non-military populations. They also note that this approach has been as effective as other psychological treatments in some studies, and less effective in others.
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