What is EMDR?
In 1987, Dr Francine Shapiro, an American Psychologist, made the chance observation that eye movements can significantly reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts and feelings. EMDR has developed rapidly since then and is now used by therapists all over the world. Research studies have shown that it can markedly accelerate the healing process and that the effects are long-lasting.
EMDR was initially developed to be used with sufferers of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) following traumatic events in their lives such as road traffic accidents, natural disasters, experiences of war and violence, physical and sexual assault and public disasters. In March 2005 it was validated by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment of choice for PTSD (see www.nice.org.uk).
EMDR has been developed to treat most other areas of psychological and emotional disturbance. These include symptoms of anxiety and depression, panic attacks, stress, phobias, sleep problems, complicated grief and performance anxiety. It can help people to improve their self-confidence and lead more positive and emotionally balanced lives.
What is an EMDR session like?
During an EMDR treatment, the therapist will help the client to identify a specific problem to work on. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, experienced and the thoughts and beliefs currently held about this event. While focusing on these aspects of the problem, the client is asked to track the therapist's hand movements with their eyes. Other forms of alternative dual attention stimulation can be used, such as hand tapping or alternative audio tones.
This procedure facilitates the reprocessing of psychological and emotional material. Each person will process the information uniquely, based on their personal experiences and values. Clients are simply asked to notice what comes to mind during the process without making any effort to control direction or content.
During this reprocessing, clients typically experience some resolution to the problem. This can be simply viewing the event in a different way or without experiencing such intense associated emotions. During the session clients may experience powerful emotions, but, by the end of the session, there is a reduction in the level of disturbance. The changes that occur are purely the result of the client's own innate, health seeking processes.
EMDR is not a ‘miracle cure'. However, it is a powerful form of therapy which can have very significant effects on clients' psychological and emotional well-being in a relatively short time.
How long does EMDR take?
One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and assess whether EMDR is the appropriate treatment. During the assessment you will be introduced to the EMDR procedure so that you can decide whether you feel comfortable with it. Once therapist and client have agreed it is appropriate, the EMDR therapy may begin.
How long it takes will depend on the particular problem and/or symptoms you would like to work on and what you hope to achieve. Typically a course of treatment is 3 - 12 sessions which take place weekly or fortnightly.
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