EMDR Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing
Carolyn Burnett - Counsellor & Psychotherapist
EMDR Counselling and Psychotherapy
I first became interested in EMDR counselling, through my own experience of it with a friend and clinician who had completed her practitioner training back in 2003. Part of the training is experiential or actually experiencing the therapy in supervised conditions and I believe a good therapist needs to have their own experience of therapy. I found the experience very profound. I chose a past childhood memory of a small trauma I had experienced, but which still caused some anxiety. I was so impressed by how quickly we got to the most important aspects of this experience and the understanding of the anxiety and I was able to process it from a more adult perspective. I really began to understand the anxiety differently and this helped me to feel better. I was so inspired by this experience, I wanted to integrate the training into my own Psychotherapy practice and had struggled for some time with a growing realisation that talking about experience is not always enough to resolve it. My clients often feedback that understanding their issues did not seem to help them with the emotions and bodily sensations that were still lodged in a very physical way in their bodies. Emotions like anxiety and anger have a powerful physical intensity to them that can be frightening. ( See Peter Levine's book on Waking the Tiger-Healing Trauma.) The EMDR Model really recognises the important role emotions play in taking in information from our experiences, relationships and environment and adapting to the inevitable changes going on around us all the time. It is not the intense emotions that are bad, though they can be frightening, but the lack of connection with what they are telling us about what we need.
EMDR is a powerful therapy. It works well for both smaller trauma's like bullying and big Trauma's like natural disasters witnessed or experienced. Informed by many sources of Psychological research and information, there is a unique understanding of the misunderstanding of mental health conditions. There is a growing body of information(see Bessell van der Kolk and Alan Shore) that recognises the experience of Trauma, usually chronic, at the heart of many symptomatic conditions like Anxiety, Depression, Phobias, Borderline Personality, ADHD and Bipolar Disorders. EMDR is increasingly offered with positive outcomes in these areas.
I have found it to be a very helpful and safe therapy for most of the clients I have worked with. The techniques we use are based on the idea that in order to process or adapt to difficult experiences, we need to be able to trust the therapist and feel safe enough to talk about distressing events. Defences are there for a good reason. If we become overwhelmed by our distressed feelings, our defences are there to protect us. We can experience a disconnection between our thinking (the left brain function) and our emotions( the right brain function) and then it is hard to open up. So we teach some self regulation skills which have a very soothing affect and an increased ability to think through the experience.
If we remain stuck in our initial perceptions of a traumatic experience-they literally remain in the same form with the same beliefs about the event, and the same sensations, feelings, smells and sounds. In my work with clients, early traumatic experiences can remain in either pre-verbal form i.e. maybe just sounds or smells rather than perceptions or memories. When there has been a trauma experience, particularly one that is repeated like domestic violence where a small child may witness parents hurting each other, the child may feel very unsafe and frightened, but cannot escape from it and so is forced to shut down or freeze. The accumulation of this in the mind and body, in later life, can be witnessed in therapy and often can lead to anxious or depressed states that are cut off in meaning from the original event. The individual may now experience the fear and anxiety from this earlier experience without being able to identify the trigger or the connection and memory.
EMDR uses bilateral stimulation. This includes i.e. eye movements from left to right, electronic tapers that pulse or headphones where you can hear left right sounds in the ears. Tapping the knees or feet left right can also be used. What we know from research studies and I observe in my therapy practice is that no matter how distressing a memory, experience or emotion is; the bilateral stimulation calms the individual down. They feel safer, do not need to defend themselves in the same way and this seems to release their thinking so that new perceptions of the experience and the problem begin to flood in. The therapists job is to facilitate a kind of free association to explore the problem and make sense of it, sometimes to ask certain questions that helps the process along, teach some resources for managing powerful feelings and sometimes to encourage and nurture them along the process through the difficult parts. Though this method does not suit everyone, it has brought a profound sense of relief to most of the clients I work with.
Please also feel free to look at more information on the EMDR website www.emdrassociation.org.uk. See a further explanation by Laurel Parnell on how EMDR works on You tube.
If you are interested and want to know more see articles by Bessell van der Kolk and Laurel Parnell.
I offer a free consultation for 30 minutes on the telephone to talk about your problem to help you decide if I am the right therapist for you. I do not have a waiting list and you can call between 8:30 and 8:00pm. on 01323482002.