Anxiety and PTSD intervention
EMDR is a therapy for those experiencing anxiety or have been through a trauma. The therapy is recognised and used by NHS - World Health Organisation - NICE US Department of Vets. First researched & used by the military, it is now used across the world to treat children and adults who have had a shocking experience in the past that is still with them today.
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Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Rhys O'Leary, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012
Accepted by the NHS and the Ministry of Defence as an effective intervention for armed forces personnel suffering from PTSD. You can read more about this in an article on the MoD webpage here.
How EMDR therapy works
WHAT IS EMDR?
The mind can heal itself naturally, in the same way as the body does. Much of this natural coping mechanism occurs during sleep, particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987, utilizing this natural process in order to successfully treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has been used to effectively treat a wide range of mental health problems.
EMDR AND TRAUMA
Trauma, by definition, is unbearable and intolerable. Most rape victims, combat soldiers, and children who have been abused become so upset when they think about what they experienced that they try to push it out of their minds, trying to act as if nothing happened, and move on. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of terror and the shame of utter weakness and vulnerability.
WHAT HAPPENS IN OUR BRAIN WHEN YOU WE ARE TRAUMATIZED?
Most of the time, your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something out of the ordinary occurs and you are traumatized by an overwhelming event (e.g. a car accident) or by being subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect), your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining frozen in your brain or being "unprocessed". Such unprocessed memories and feelings are stored in the limbic system of your brain in a "raw" and emotional form, rather than in a verbal “story” mode.
This limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is associated with emotions and physical sensations. The traumatic memories can be continually triggered when you experience events similar to the difficult experiences you have been through. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are continually triggered in the present. Your ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences can therefore become inhibited.
EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way. We can work together with your own work book so you cab monitor your progress.
WHAT IS EMDR WITH CATH LIKE?
Firstly we have a cup of tea whilst we look at the steps ahead and answer any questions. We will look at your own work book so you can KEEP TRACK OF YOUR PROGRESS. After an assessment, we will start the 8 phases of EMDR therapy.
I will ask you specific questions about a particular disturbing memory. Eye movements, similar to REM sleep, will be recreated simply by asking you to watch the light bar that has a green light flowing across your visual field.
The eye movements will last for a short while and then stop. You will then be asked to report back on the experiences you have had during each of these sets of eye movements. Clients experiences during a session include changes in thoughts, images and feelings. With repeated sets of eye movements, the original disturbing memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvement in other aspects of your life.
WHAT CAN EMDR BE USED FOR?
In addition to its use for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR has been successfully used to treat:
Anxiety and panic attacks
Grief and loss
Pain, including phantom limb pain
Feelings of worthlessness or low self-esteem
CAN ANYONE BENEFIT FROM EMDR?
EMDR can accelerate therapy by resolving the impact of your past traumas and allowing you to live more fully in the present. It is not, however, appropriate for everyone. The process is rapid, and any disturbing experiences, if they occur at all, last for a comparatively short period of time. Nevertheless, you need to be aware of, and willing to experience, the strong feelings and disturbing thoughts that sometimes occur during sessions.
There are EMDR therapy programmes currently running in over 65 countries helping adults and children who have suffered from trauma as a result of tsunamis, wildfires, dictatorships or military combat.
HOW MANY SESSIONS WILL I NEED?
For a single traumatic event, NICE recommends that 8–12 sessions of EMDR might be sufficient.
However, clients with multiple issues (e.g. a car accident and a medical trauma) to be worked through, therapy could take longer.
HOW LONG IS EACH SESSION?
We usually book 90–minute sessions for EMDR. We require these longer sessions to give time to complete the work in session and to deal with any issues that might arise.
WILL I REMAIN CONTROL AND EMPOWERED?
During EMDR treatment, you will ALWAYS remain in control, fully alert and wide-awake, this is not a form of hypnosis. Throughout the session, I will support your own self-healing and intervene as little as possible. Reprocessing is usually experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt and arise from within. As a result, most people experience EMDR as being a natural and very empowering therapy.
WHAT EVIDENCE IS THERE THAT EMDR IS A SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT ?
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a proven powerful therapy designed to help people recover from traumatic events in their lives.
EMDR is a treatment which has helped over a million individuals. The validity and reliability of EMDR has been established by rigorous research. There are now over nineteen controlled studies into EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method used in the treatment of trauma. The United Kingdom Department of Health, The American Psychiatric Association, Department of Defence, Veteran’s Administration, health insurance companies, The World Health Organization and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies all recognize EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD.
“Like CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR therapy aims to reduce subjective distress and strengthen adaptive cognitions related to the traumatic event. Unlike CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR does not involve :
(a) Detailed descriptions of the event,
(b) Direct challenging of beliefs,
(c) Extended exposure, or
You can read more about how "A stiff upper lip attitude will not work in contemporary policing," in this article. Click to read.
Soldier mask artwork by Danny Quirk, with permission
What happens in an EMDR session?
Russel Brand has a frank talk about EMDR and what actually happens in the session with Jameela who had tried lots of different therapies. EMDR ended her 20 years of anxiety. If you want to know how this therapy has helped soldiers, police, war torn communities, or people with anxiety, I'm happy to talk to you and answer all your questions. I had sooo many questions about EMDR, so I wrote an information sheet on how I work with my EMDR clients. Just pop me an email for one.
VIDEO - Adult content & language warning.