I am a level 4 trained and experienced EMDR therapist.
Research studies have repeatedly shown that EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is effective in the treatment of trauma. As such, it is a NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) and WHO (World Health Organisation) recommended psychological treatment.
It is used by various services including the NHS, the emergency services, Higher Education, the police and the armed forces.
The treatment of traumatic events with the EMDR method is based upon the belief that there is a physiological component to every experience. It is believed that when an incident occurs that is "traumatic," the overwhelming nature of the experience disturbs the brain functions required for information processing. This seems to "freeze" the information in its original anxiety-producing form, complete with the original image, negative self-assessment (for example, I’m powerless, I’m going to die etc.) and other related symptoms. Because the information has not been sufficiently processed, it continues to surface in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may be characterized by intrusive thoughts, flashbacks (re-living the trauma), nightmares, trying to avoid anything connected to the traumatic event, extreme body reactions when we come into contact with a reminder of the trauma, constant agitation and 'scanning' the environment for any sign of danger.
These symptoms may be resolved through use of EMDR, as the special eye movements allow the "frozen" information to be processed and integrated as part of the normal information gathering process that we all experience after an event has occurred. The distressing memory becomes like an ordinary memory, something that occurred in the past. It is, in effect, date stamped.
EMDR has helped many people to be freed from the negative aspects of the past so that they can go about their lives without being held back.
The 'Big' and 'Small' traumas of life
It is not just life-threatening events that can feel traumatic. A tsunami or a car crash could be examples of 'Big T' traumas. On the other hand, losing control of your bladder aged 5 in front of the whole class and being laughed at could also be extremely upsetting. That child, as an adult, can feel very ill-at-ease whenever there is any attention directed at him (parties, public speaking, interviews etc) and perform poorly as a result. This is an example of a ‘Small T’ trauma.
EMDR is a psychotherapy that aims to help you put hurtful, tragic, humiliating, painful or frightening experiences behind you. As well as PTSD, it has been used successfully to treat a variety of problems which have their origins in negative life experiences, including anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, low self-esteem, phobias, eating disorders and complex grief.
As a practitioner I work with EMDR in a variety of ways. Before working with trauma it is very important that a client feels comfortable/safe with their therapist. The more complex and deep-rooted the trauma, the more important this is. For single event traumas, for example, a recent car crash, a brief intervention of a few sessions may be all that is needed. Where trauma is more complex and rooted in disturbing childhood experiences, I work in a more integrative way, using EMDR alongside more traditional approaches that emphasise relationship and build awareness of repeating patterns of unconscious behaviours and ways of being.