Sue StuartCounselling and Psychotherapy in Newcastle

About EMDR. EMDR logo

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing)

EMDR is a technique developed to treat traumatic emotionally-charged memories. The aim of EMDR is to facilitate you in becoming free from your distressing symptoms. The length of treatment depends on the number of traumatic events in your life and their complexity. Unlike other trauma-focused therapies, EMDR does not require you to give detailed descriptions of the event if you don't want to, require extended exposure to traumatic memories, or demand that you complete homework.

Do you frequently have upsetting thoughts and feelings about something that happened to you? Experience very strong feelings of distress, including physical discomfort, when you are reminded of it? Do you feel "jumpy" or are easily startled? Have you decided to avoid anything that triggers these feelings? Perhaps you cannot sleep, you are more tired or irritable than usual and have difficulty in concentrating. Have recurring intense dreams or nightmares? Do you feel different, or distant from other people?

These symptoms may follow a short-lived but extremely traumatic event such a a road accident, unexpected physical attack, childbirth ordeal or natural disaster. They may also be experienced by people who have suffered repeated traumatic or humiliating events over a longer period of time such as physical or emotional abuse in childhood, domestic abuse or neglect. EMDR has also been found to be helpful for people with obsessive or compulsive behaviours, jealousy, performance anxiety, some sexual difficulties and persistent pain.

The underlying assumption of EMDR is that we human beings have a natural tendency towards mental health. The adaptive information processing (AIP) model suggests that trauma is stored in the brains neural network. Sounds, smells, sights or sensations stimulate the brain to search the memory for associations. These may be linked to unprocessed memories that feel live, but are out of tune with normal daily events e.g. my plumber who heard a car backfire and threw himself under the bushes in my front garden. He was embarrassed and explained that since serving in the army he often found himself reacting to unexpected sounds in that automatic way.

EMDR allows us to access unprocessed memories, to identify what is useful and to let go of the rest. There are channels of association between memeories e.g.the unexpected death of a loved pet may also be associated with the sudden death of a member of the family when you were six years old. Treatment enables access to the traumatic material so that troubling symptoms can be stopped. Once this is done, you will adapt your responses so that they fit with your present life expereince.

Treatment begins with a thorough assessment of your history and current symptoms; you will also be asked to identify or develop positive resources you can use to help you relax. When you are ready, bi-lateral stimulation is used for desensitisation. This allows you to process negative emotional memories of past experiences, enabling you to identify what is useful and let go of the rest. Visual, auditory or tactile prompts are used in a rhythmic left-right pattern. You might be asked to watch a hand or moving light alternating from left to right and back again, or listen to sounds that alternate between your left and right ears. This accelerates the brain's information processing system.

Following successful EMDR sessions, you will no longer be hypervigilant to old triggers. You will still recall what happened, but the memory no longer causes you distress.

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