What is EMDR?

Last week I met with a psychologist who is going to do some EMDR treatment with me. He talked me through what we’d be doing and explained a bit about the process. One of the first things he said was ‘Don’t ask me how it works’. Having a PhD in psychology, I kinda expected he would be able to give me some nerdy scientific theory, but he literally said, ‘I can’t say how it works, because nobody knows really know the brain works’. I had to simply trust his assurance that it definitely does work.

If, like myself until recently, you have no idea what this treatment is and how it can help, I thought I’d share a brief bit of info from the EMDR Association’s website. I’ll also post here when I start treatment in a few weeks to let you know how it’s going and whether it makes any difference to my PTSD symptoms.

What is EMDR therapy?

“EMDR is an acronym for ‘Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing’. EMDR is a powerful psychological treatment method that was developed by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980s. As a Senior Research Fellow at the Mental Research Institute, she published the first research data to support the benefits of the therapy in 1989.”

What happens in an EMDR session?

From what I understand, the therapist engages the client with a series of eye movements, sounds or taps as the client recalls and focuses on their traumatic memory. The effect is believed to be similar to that of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Somehow, this combination helps the client to reprocess the trauma and hold it as a more ‘normal’ memory, rather than an intrusive one, or one that causes flashbacks. I’ll be able to tell you more first hand in a couple of weeks when I have my first session.

There is a lot of research and evidence to support EMDR as a psychological trauma treatment, so I am hopeful it will bring me some relief from the flashbacks, nightmares and horrible body-held memories I experience. The research has proven it gets results in treating PTSD from a range of traumatic events, including:

  • war related experiences
  • childhood sexual and/or physical abuse
  • childhood neglect
  • natural disaster
  • assault
  • surgical trauma
  • road traffic accidents
  • workplace accidents.

There’s lots more info at www.emdrassociation.org.uk. And I’ll be sharing some regular updates on how things are going once my treatment is underway.

Photo: n4i, Creative Commons.

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. I have a past friend who used EMDR with great success. She used it for shame issues in having been married and divorced 3 times. She felt a lot of shame over this issue and could not get it out of her head. She reported success and she seemed like a different person after it was completed. There was a great change in her demeanor and outlook on life after the therapy was completed.

    I thought about using it for myself for general therapy but didn’t feel I had any qualifying issues so I’ve never personally tried it.

    I wish you the best and I look forward to reading about your experience.

    Here’s a link about EMDR … I know you can look it up yourself, but here it is anyway:

    http://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Hello, haven’t heard from you in a while – how are you? Thanks for the positive thoughts and the link. Laura

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey there! Just reading all the blogs I subscribe to. Been dealing with weird right arm pain and so typing / blogging aggravates my hand & arm. Going for EMG study (not to be confused with EMDR!) next week to check out if any nerve damage is or has occurred and to locate the root of this pain. Hope I get some answers!

        I think about blogging and writing more responses to others posts — especially yours but this arm is limiting my life. I may have a cervical nerve impingement … don’t know.

        God I miss writing more than you know! And my work entails lots of keyboard work … I type and talk ALL day!

        Anyway, I think about you more than you know. I create responses in my head but haven’t put them out in the universe … thank you for thinking of ME! 🙂

        I enjoy reading your blog but I also cringe and feel sad at the same time … I enjoy your blog from the point that you are being open and getting your feelings out there, telling your story. I don’t enjoy that you experience emotional (and physical?) pain though. Heartbreaking really.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Laura Black says:

        Oh no that sounds horrible. Hope you get to the bottom of it and can get some treatment soon. You know there are some pretty good voice to type softwares available these days – maybe you should look into it so you can still write without ending up in pain?
        It’s lovely that you even think to respond to me in your head. Even better when you get to write it, but I don’t forget about you in the meantime. You’re always so kind. Thank you for thinking of me.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m sure if I spoke into anything there would be weird words created … that would frustrate me to no end. I already make enough typos as it is! Thank you for the suggestion though … it did cross my mind briefly, then leaped over a bridge and died.

        Today I go for my EMG testing! Hope it’s fun! (sarcasm) I’ll keep you posted … looking forward to your next post on EMDR!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. UPDATE: Went for EMG testing today. It was one hour and a piece of cake! Great news — all nerve & muscle conduction studies were absolutely normal. The doc says I have neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome — sexy sounding, huh? Anyway, intensive physical therapy will be prescribed. No additional medications thank Goddess! I don’t want to simply mask the problem, but get to the root and alleviate it if I can. The REAL cure is if I didn’t work my desk typing job (I’m a nurse by the way … I talk about meds ALL DAY LONG, but don’t actually give any, except to myself … although today I did give hubby 2 Ibuprofen). I have been at this job for 11 years and the desk jockey position is taking a toll on my body … YES, sitting is bad for you!

        I need a new job but love what I do. Blah blah blah … just waiting for your 2nd EMDR post!!!! The suspense! Hang in there Ms. Laura and if you don’t mind me asking, do you live in or near London? Hubby & I are planning a trip to England Spring 2017. My mom was born in Scotland and raised in England and with the pound being down we’re going to help the UK’s economy out!!! I’ve never been and look forward to soooooo many things like riding a double decker bus, eating REAL fish & chips, getting curry and finding somewhere with Yorkshire pudding. A close-up glance of Princess Kate would be nice — isn’t she gorgeous! I hope I can make it to Kent because that’s where my mom was from.

        AND to boot, I’m going to send you another link … please, please tell me to stop if this is too much. Sometimes I don’t know my own limits. This is my other blog with a post about Italy that might help you conjure up some great imagery besides that finger, finger, finger … hopefully he wasn’t using his middle finger! LOL! 🙂

        Here’s a happy post for you my blogosphere buddy (YOU)! I hope it distracts you from you and my photos (and words) are absorbable by your mind & heart if only to take you on a mini-journey.

        FOREVER ENCHANTED BY ITALY:

        https://elizabetcetera.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/forever-enchanted-by-italy/

        Ciao!
        ❤ Elizabetcetera

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Laura Black says:

        Glad you’ve got to the bottom of it, hope the physio does the job. Sitting is so very bad for all of us. I get way less back problems now I don’t work full time anymore.
        Don’t worry about sending links, I love to read what other people write and get to know how we are all connected. It’s the great thing about this blogging malarky.
        Yeah I’m not far from London, just 30 mins West by train. It’s a leafy suburban city that has lots of history and lots to do. I can barely afford to live here because the rents are so high, but it really is worth it for the lifestyle.
        Exciting that you’re planning to come over. I can definitely give you some recommendations of things to do and places to see. It made me laugh that you’re excited about getting on one of our smelly old busses! I’m sure you’ll make it to Kent. Everywhere is nearby in this country compared to the US. We are such a tiny island 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I made great strides with Raymond back in 1995, and he did try this with me. We didn’t try long, only during one session so without success.
    For me it’s not about what I remember, but rather what I can’t. It was so violent my mind won’t let me remember even though it was 55 years ago at the age of 8. Maybe that’s why it won’t succeed for me, because one has to recall an event during the process, but the one event causing the PTSD is so traumatic I can’t.
    I appreciate having it spelled out like this. It makes it so much easier to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Thanks, and sorry to hear it didn’t work for you. Although I think practitioners vary, as mine said he can work with body memory and senses as opposed to an actual image or narrative. Might be worth looking into it again for you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it really might. I was uncomfortable with it at the time so not much effort or time was put into it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. sasperella says:

    Hi, I had a meeting with my psycotherapist yesterday and I am also starting this next monday. I am rather aprehensive especially as I have also been asked to write a timeline of events from being born to now – would you mind telling me if your therapist asked you to do this too? thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Hello. Wow that sounds like a big ask. Is this a new therapist? In my experience they usually do an ‘intake’ session in which they ask you to outline the significant events in your life, I’ve not heard of someone being asked to write a history. For me, that would be a huge task and would take me weeks. I’m fortunate that the therapist I’m working with on this knows me already – he ran groups when I was an inpatient for 3 months and so he’s got a good idea of my history. At the same time, he wants me to focus on two significant traumatic events in the EMDR treatment, as it isn’t an explorative methodology like ‘normal’ psychotherapy. I’d say if you’re feeling uncomfortable or worried about it, perhaps get in touch with your therapist and let them know. Maybe they can give you a bit more direction on what they really need from you before you can get started. And good luck on Monday, I’d be interested to hear how it goes. Laura

      Liked by 1 person

  4. sasperella says:

    Thanks Laura, yes it’s a new therapist I have had counciling with a charity called rasac ( rape and sexual abuse centre) last year they stopped in December but this was just talking about what had happened.

    I’m going to give it a go and if I get stuck I’ll just explain I got stuck. I think my therapist wants to know as there as been multiple abuse from multiple people over time maybe. I don’t know I’m just guessing. Just had to see how it goes I guess

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Oh yes I know RASAC. They helped me with some legal stuff when I decided to report my abuser to the police. They are a fab and massively under-resourced charity.

      I hope it goes well. Just remember, don’t rush into anything difficult before you feel safe and ready. Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. lisaslarsen says:

    The bilateral stimulation helps integrate the memory by facilitating the blending of sensory (right hemispheric) associations to the traumatic memory with verbal (left hemispheric). I have seen great results from this treatment. I wish you luck and look forward to hearing about your experience of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Thanks. I had my first session yesterday and I am hopeful it will be productive when I start working on the trauma next week. It is really scary though, going into that stuff. But I know if I take the risk of opening up those memories it should really help.

      Like

  6. dbest1ishere says:

    I am currently undergoing EMDR therapy for my CPTSD. Its intense but at the same time not too intense. I wish others knew more about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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