EMDR Psychotherapy Treatment
I write here in detail about EMDR as it is my preferred method for helping you or people you know who are suffering from the effects of trauma, and indeed who are suffering from many other difficulties as often these difficulties have their roots in childhood trauma.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a relatively newly-devised form of psychotherapy of about 30 year’s old which is credited to the American psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro. It contains many accepted principles from traditional psychodynamic thinking, mindfulness and CBT but involves a unique formulation or protocol for applying these principles plus many others.
One of its trademarks is the use of bi-lateral stimulation which is thought to trigger the innate adaptive information processing system (AIP) which is what happens when the left and right sides of the brain “communicate” effectively. The latter is carried out at Stage 4 of the 8 stage protocol as summarised here:
EMDR Phase 1 of 8-Phase Protocol – Client History Phase
It is important to take a through background history from client
EMDR – Phase 2 of 8-Phase Protocol – Preparation Phase
Where necessary emphasis is placed on building inner resources, also known as the preparation and stabilisation phase, to help strengthen the client so as to deal with the painful core of the work.
EMDR Phase 3 of the 8-Stage Protocol – Assessment Phase
This means the task of determining the images, unhelpful negative beliefs , positive beliefs desired, emotions and body sensations experienced when thinking of the traumatic event
EMDR Phase 4 of the 8-Stage Protocol – Desensitisation Phase
Here begins the desensitisation or processing of the issue stored in the person’s memory, as outlined above, using bi-lateral stimulation of the brain (which I explain more in the paragraph below). If, at this stage, a client finds the processing too difficult sometimes the therapist will interweave suitable questions or other techniques to help unblock the processing.
EMDR Phases 5 & 6 of the 8-Stage Protocol – Installation Phase & Body Scan
When subjective scores, which rate the pain or disturbance, have reduced sufficiently, positive belief installation is carried out. This involves checking that the client can genuinely think better of themselves, when imagining they are back in the memory, without any remaining inner disturbance. A body scan is also completed to check for residual storage of the difficult event in the body with a view to processing it further and eradicating it completely if necessary.
EMDR Phases 7 & 8 of the 8-Stage Protocol – Closure and Reevaluation
Closure is checked at the end of each session to ensure a client can safely leave the room.
Re-evaluation is carried out in the next session after the positive installation and body scan to test the effectiveness of the work done in previous sessions and to determine what images and memories need to be desensitised next. A future scenario might be imagined and various visualisations used to install other positive inner resources. This sometimes coincidentally helps to elicit further unresolved issues for processing further.
This therapy was at first found to be powerful and effective for those suffering from the disturbing feelings and sensations that are held within the body due to dysfunctionally stored traumatic memories, such as in post traumatic stress – most often seen in combat veterans. It has been subjected to rigorous clinical trials for the latter and is now recommended by the W.H.O. (World Health Organisation) and the NICE guidelines (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) as a treatment of choice for trauma and post-traumatic stress.
EMDR has also been found via clinical experience, to be a powerful therapy for “re-wiring” disturbing childhood memories which were experienced as traumatic and which are often at the root of present day issues such as found in clients presenting with anxiety, depression and relationship difficulties, phobias and OCD amongst others.
Trauma in childhood can come in two main forms – either via overt adverse events such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and also via more covert omissions such as neglect, whereby the child failed to receive adequate parenting such as nurturing, mirroring and positive stimulation and feedback (even if they were fed, clothed and housed).
It should not be underestimated how much power the level of unresolved early issues can have on adult feelings and behaviours many year’s later. Often these feelings and behaviours get re-stimulated when we have our own children, who serve to remind us (often quite unconsciously) of our early years’ experiences and who re-stimulate us to feel and behave in ways which we would rather not. Changing by willpower alone is impossible if these issues are deeply embedded and their origins subconscious.
EMDR has been shown to help sufferers gain greater insight and clarity about these early years’ experiences or indeed any traumatic event in a way which eliminates them from the body-mind forever. The process, with an experienced therapist's input, trusts the brain’s natural healing mechanisms - the Adaptive Information Processing system as defined by France Shaipro. There is minimal input by the therapist at stage 4 of the protocol in order to ensure that the therapist's thoughts and feelings do not interfere with the client's thoughts and feelings. Encouragement only is offered unless the client is quite stuck. In the latter situation the therapist can offer suggestions to help unstick the client's process.
After EMDR, sufferers may well be re-stimulated emotionally or on a bodily sensate level by unpleasant present-time events but past upsets are no longer likely to get muddled up with the present. In other words, old emotional drivers are no longer reactivated in the present. Whilst the memories remain, any disturbance, when recalled in detail in the present, no longer exists.
EMDR also helps to reframe those events more positively or with greater acceptance, without self-blame or blaming others. Importantly, clients show a greater sense of self-worth, assertiveness and learn to have compassion for themselves and others.
Not only is EMDR carried out differently from other therapies it often gets to the root of an issue much quicker. It delves deep into a person’s somatically held memories of events which have been embedded there for years or decades: change then occurs in both mind and body and not only that, studies have shown that the changes remain forever.
How does EMDR differ from other therapies?Hopefully, by now, it is a bit clearer that this is a distinct form of therapy which utilises a targeted approach to resolve, not only traumatic events, but also some cases of anxiety, depression, abuse, phobias and so on. It requires the use of special protocols, (the basis of these is delineated above) and sometimes clinicians use special equipment to enable emotional change at a deep physiological and neurological level. It is unique and follows a specific procedure which is unlike other forms of talking therapy. Therefore, it is generally recommended that sessions last for 1.5 hours either weekly or fortnightly but this can be discussed at the assessment.
EMDR has been shown in clinical trials to work more quickly, and to prevent the return of problem issues more effectively, than most other forms of psychotherapy. (The latter of course depends on the type and duration of the trauma and whether it has links to your childhood). There have been at least 20 randomised control trials to evidence its effectivess for trauma and PTSD.
Please refer to the articles on EMDR, written by Dr Francine Shapiro (the originator of EMDR) and which are suitable for the layman, on my Home Page – Click Here - and also see my chosen list of books helpful for the layman in the page entitled Books ...... They can be ordered directly from this site via Amazon at no extra cost to you.