someone suffers a very traumatic event, they can experience distressing
symptoms, in which they relive the event, such as through flashbacks
and nightmares. While most recover naturally, in some cases the
normal processing of the experience is blocked, and the symptoms
persist to the extent that they suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD). EMDR is a therapy designed to reduce the distress associated
with traumatic memories. While research is still ongoing, and it
is not yet clear exactly how it works, the outcomes of EMDR have
been extremely positive. It is thought to work by helping the person
to access and process blocked traumatic memories.
is not normally used as a stand-alone therapy, but is an effective
additional therapeutic technique to address “re-experience”
symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares. It has also been used
with good effect in the treatment of phobic anxiety symptoms following
traumatic events. It is mostly used in combination with CBT. It
is equally effective in adults and children.
does it work?
an EMDR session the client is asked to focus on emotionally disturbing
memories or thoughts. At the same time they are asked to follow
an alternating stimulus. This is commonly the therapist’s
hand moving from side to side, but can also sometimes be sounds
alternating from ear to ear, or tapping on alternate hands. It is
thought that this restarts the natural processing of memories that
have previously been blocked, and allows the level of anxiety associated
with memories of the traumatic event to subside.
are three main phases in EMDR. Firstly the traumatic memories are
processed. Next the processing shifts to any current circumstances
that elicit distress. Lastly the processing shifts to working on
imagined future events, to assist the client in acquiring the skills
needed to function better in future.
long does it take?
of EMDR tend to be longer than normal, lasting up to two hours.
This is because it is important to allow time for the full processing
of a set of memories before the end of the session, and the time
taken for this to occur can be unpredictable. There have been quite
dramatic results with even a single session producing significant
symptom relief in some cases, but normally 4-8 EMDR sessions are
used in combination with additional sessions of CBT.
What is the training?
therapists must be qualified and skilled in another form of therapy
such as CBT or Counselling, before undertaking accredited EMDR training.
The training takes place in two separate stages, Level 1 and the
more advanced Level 2, both of which have to be completed before
a therapist is considered fully qualified to practice EMDR.