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What is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing)?

Processing trauma and letting it go

When we cut our skin, our body has a process for healing it. In much the same way, when we go through a trauma our brain has its own process for healing this too. In fact, our brain is designed to keep us in good mental health.

But when a traumatic event is too overwhelming to cope with, this natural healing process can get blocked. The memories of the event are stored exactly as they were experienced, in the form of raw emotions, sounds or images. In a sense, these experiences become ‘frozen in time’, so that all it takes is a single ‘trigger’ to bring them to the surface again. As a result, a person might keep reliving the event again and again. This can lead to conditions like PTSD or C-PTSD.

EMDR can help you to process trauma safely. It is a combination of both talk and body-based therapy that encourages the mind to heal itself. It does this by taking you back to an event, experience or life period that needs to be processed.

EMDR is effective in helping people who have experienced war, accidents, assaults, disasters and being a ‘first responder’ to traumatic events. It can also help people who have lived through ongoing trauma, like abusive childhoods or relationships. Increasingly, it is also being used to treat everyday memories that can affect anxiety, self-esteem and wellbeing, like relationship breakups or being criticised.

Also, if you are experiencing ongoing upsetting emotions, fears or beliefs — but don’t quite know why — this could be due to an old wound that has never been healed. EMDR can help you to link current challenging issues with past experiences and traumas, freeing you to move forward.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR will take you back to past experiences while keeping one foot safely grounded in the present. It has several steps and can be an emotionally intense experience, but your therapist will guide and support you all the way through.

You won’t have to talk about all the details of the distressing memory if you don’t want to. Instead, you will simply be asked to hold it in your mind while you pay attention to a moving object, hand taps or tones in alternating ears. In this way you can process difficult memories and come to terms with them, so that they no longer have the power to trigger you.

Studies have shown that EMDR can produce results in a short period of time. For single traumas, it can often bring about recovery in up to three 90-minute sessions.

What can EMDR help with?

Trauma, PTSD, complex trauma, anxiety, phobias, stress, addiction, depression or low mood, psychosis, eating issues, performance, anger, self-esteem, chronic pain, medically unexplained symptoms.

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