Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is an innovative psychological treatment that was initially developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. Since then, the validity and reliability of EMDR has been established by multiple research studies, and it is now recommended as an effective treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR is also increasingly used to help individuals with a variety of other issues including, but not limited to: Anxiety (including phobias and panic attacks), depression, sleep issues, complicated grief, addictions, self-esteem and performance anxiety.
EMDR is a complex and powerful therapy. It promotes the mind’s natural ability to process content and heal itself; most of the time we are unaware of this process, as we think about our experience, make sense of it, dream about it, talk about it, etc. However, this system is sometimes overwhelmed, either by a single event (such as a car accident) or a series of events (such as childhood neglect), and the distressing or disturbing content remains ‘unprocessed’. When this happens, the material is stored in a ‘raw’ and emotional form, rather than in an autobiographical way: Instead of becoming part of our story it remain active, and can be triggered in a variety of ways, which can often seem inexplicable to the individual. This can result in strong emotions being triggered without an obvious reason, or to degrees that are inappropriate to the situation; anxiety, panic, anger, etc. The process of EMDR therapy helps the brain to employ its natural ability to process this material, and ‘metabolise’ it, so it’s no longer stored in a way that can be triggered.
Sometimes EMDR is used as a stand-alone therapy, at other times it forms part of a larger body of therapy work done, in effect, becoming one of a number of tools employed within psychotherapy. The exact pattern of steps followed in EMDR may vary in either case, but generally speaking it will flow through stages of:
- Assessment, which may include an assessment of the extent of disturbing memories.
- Building resources to improve the comfort and speed of the process, this will typically also allow the client to become familiar with the use of eye movements.
- Processing memories: Using a sequence of eye movements, followed by the client reporting on their experience. This may include changes in thoughts, images, feelings or body sensations. Unlike most other psychotherapy approaches, there is no need to discuss these things with the therapist.
- Checking to assess the degree of change in intensity of the memory. Associated memories tend to process at the same time, so it is not usually necessary to process all memories individually. This liking of memory processing greatly speeds up the therapy process.
Is EMDR suitable for everyone?
Although EMDR greatly limits the amount of time that people are exposed to difficult memories and feelings, and sometimes very little emotion is even felt, it is also true that strong feelings and disturbing thoughts may occur during sessions, and even between sessions. As a result, some people may be better off working more slowly in therapy, or delaying working with EMDR until they are feeling strong enough within themselves, again perhaps by doing other therapy work beforehand.
Will I be in control of the process?
Yes. The therapist guides the process, but the client is able to stop the process at any point, and is fully awake and alert at all times. EMDR is quite different to most approaches to psychotherapy, as the therapist is trained to intervene as little as possible, but instead creates a safe space within which the natural self-healing is facilitated. As a result, many people report finding EMDR empowering.
How long does the therapy take?
Sessions are typically either up to an hour or up to 90 minutes. The number of sessions required will vary enormously, depending on a number of different factors, but EMDR is capable of bringing about very rapid processing, and does not involve any homework or practice on the part of the client.
Is there any scientific evidence to show that EMDR actually works?
Yes. There is a large body of evidence now, including meta-analyses comparing EMDR to other therapy protocols, randomised clinical trials and non-randomised studies. There is a comprehensive listing of recent research listed on the EMDR Institute web site: www.emdr.com In addition, the Adaptive Information Process model has been developed to explain EMDR’s demonstrated clinical effects, and to guide development of the protocol. As with other psychotherapy protocols, there is no way to prove the validity of this model, due to limitations in current knowledge of neurobiological processes. However, this fact is quite independent of the evidence for the effectiveness of the EMDR process itself, it simply indicates that there is more work to do in understanding the workings of the brain!
If you would like to find out more about my practice, please click on the 'Home' link at the top of the page, or click on 'Services' to find out more about the range of problems and conditions I am trained to help with.
I am available for consultations by appointment at Delta House, 175-177 Borough High Street, SE1 1HR (near to London Bridge station). Late appointments are available on Monday evenings.
Please call 07831-693684 for an appointment, or send me an e-mail (there's a link at the foot of this page).
The fee for appointments up to one hour is £75.00, and the fee for appointments up to 90 minutes is £125.00, payable by bank transfer at the time of booking.
At least 24 hours notice is required when rescheduling or cancelling appointments, otherwise the full fee will be charged.
I will always try to accommodate clients who have difficulty in affording my fees as I believe a lack of funds should not prevent people receiving professional therapeutic help. In these situations, I offer reduced rates at certain times, please mention your needs when making an appointment.