EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a rapid and effective treatment for a number of issues, in particular different kinds of trauma. The range of traumatic experiences it can treat is broad, ranging from ‘big T traumas’ like witnessing or experiencing violence to ‘smaller t traumas’ like experiences of being humiliated in the workplace. The after effects of trauma, like flashbacks, overwhelming anxiety and a negative sense of self, can be crippling and exhausting.
It feels as though traumatic events get stuck, like a broken record. People are often good at quickly processing what happens to them day to day. For example if someone is rude to you on the bus you might be angry for a while but then think the person’s having a bad day or you might turn your attention to the person you’re with and forget about the insult. We seem to have a natural ability to heal from distressing experiences. But this gets blocked with trauma.
EMDR helps you process the blocked trauma so that the distress associated with it dissipates. In EMDR therapy we start by focussing on a traumatic memory and then I ask you to follow a moving light or the movement or my hand and just notice what comes up. As you do this you connect the distressing thoughts with other knowledge stored in your brain and body that provide insight. The trauma starts to become integrated into your memory so you don’t need to keep revisiting it. Your thinking about yourself will change too and feelings like self-blame will resolve. When you later think of it, your sense of it will be of an event that happened, rather than something which is overlaid with emotion.
I realise that this sounds too good to be true and when I first trained in the approach I didn’t understand why so many people seemed to be taken in by it. But despite my reservations, it just seems to work, way quicker than I’d anticipate.