EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This means that the goals of therapy are to desensitize or remove intrusive emotions, to resolve memories of traumatic events and that eye movement is one distinctive part of the treatment protocol. Research has shown EMDR to be effective as treatment for the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD).
EMDR is based on the assumption that, during a traumatic event, overwhelming emotions lead to the experience being stored in an ‘unprocessed’ way and as such are not resolved. Individuals report that these memories are fresh. Often there is the comment – “I remember it as if it was yesterday.” The memories are emotional cause the re-experiencing of the trauma emotion. A more detailed explanation is available from the EMDR Institute website.
In EMDR the person is asked to focus on trauma-related imagery, negative thoughts, emotions, and body sensations while simultaneously moving their eyes back and forth following the movement of the therapist’s fingers across their field of vision for 20–30 seconds or more. This process may be repeated many times. Over time, EMDR has increasingly included more treatment components that are comparable with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions including cognitive interweaving (analogous to cognitive therapy), imaginal templating (rehearsal of mastery or coping responses to anticipated stressors), and standard in vivo exposure.
It is not necessary to understand fully the theory that is behind EMDR. It is a therapy that more calls for participation rather than understanding the theory. Your therapist at Westbourne Park Psychology, who does EMDR is Jo England. She will need to fully assess you and your circumstances before discussing the use of EMDR with you. You would be very unlikely to do eye movement treatment at an early stage. EMDR is a powerful change strategy that comes more towards the end of therapy, after the therapist has become to know you quite well. There are many things happening in an EMDR session, as well as the eye movement. Commentators have been drawn to comment on the eye movement aspect of the therapy, but it is just one part of a whole approach. One attractive part of the therapy is that it helps you to return to being more like yourself, more free of the impact of a trauma. So whilst eye movement sounds bizarre, perhaps because of this it has attracted a lot of research as to its effectiveness.
The Australian guidelines for the treatment of PTSD and ASD gives the following edited recommendations to GPs.
Adults with PTSD should be offered trauma-focused psychological interventions (trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or (EMDR), as the first line treatment, before even the prescription of medication. This is as resounding endorsement of EMDR as a treatment intervention.
What is a trauma?
During a trauma the individuals ability to fully accept what has happened to them fails. The ability to cope is overwhelmed by these events.
These events can involve assault, involvement in a car accident, rape, being in a home fire or wild fire event. Any near death experience for you or your loved ones is likely to be traumatic. The vast majority of people do recover from being in a trauma, a minority go on to experience long term symptoms.
Good social and practical support from families friends and communities is the most important way to help those involved in disasters in the first instance. It is normal to experience distressing symptoms after a trauma, but if symptoms of trauma persist, or if guidance for managing symptoms is required, seek help.
Jo England works gently with trauma in all its forms, and specialise in working with not only people suffering from acute traumatic episodes, but with people and children who experience chronic levels of trauma from an early age. This may take the form of moderate to longer term therapy. Jo works with your GP, Psychiatrist or Paediatrician very closely. She also uses EMDR therapy for managing pain, and for helping decrease the cravings for unhealthy eating. This can help with managing diabetes and other health related problems.