As an effective addition to standard cognitive techniques, EMDR psychotherapy provides the ability to successfully process a past traumatic event. This transformational eye movement therapy helps rebuild positive pathways within the client’s mind, resulting in stronger coping mechanisms that can shield the individual from negative thought patterns.
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, achieves this outcome through a recently discovered technique of bilateral eye movements as a form of therapy. Through regular side-to-side eye movements in conjunction with standard psychological therapy techniques, the mind is able to see past its sources of distress rather than spiralling down into them. Repeated sessions allow the client to build stronger neural networks to improve self-esteem even in the face of previously experienced trauma.
Many clinicians recommend EMDR therapy for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), citing its ability to heal deep-seated cognitive wounds without relying on the creation and rehearsal of a new mental narrative. Instead of offering the client new perspectives and rationalisations, EMDR uses the body’s own abilities to influence the direction of the individual’s thoughts.
EMDR combines psychological conversation therapy with a special insight into the connection between eyes and memory. After encouraging the individual to focus on the source of their trauma and the feelings it evokes, the therapist uses a pattern of finger movements for the client to follow with their eyes. This activity helps re-focus their consciousness away from the disturbing incident, giving their body’s defences enough time to create a safe and adequate mental distance from the harmful memory.
With repetition over a series of sessions, the body gains the ability to cope with its trauma, also learning through muscle memory that the negative thoughts associated with the traumatic event will soon give way to relief. Each time a traumatic thought is followed quickly by a neutral or positive outcome, the client moves closer to a more sustainable inner equilibrium.
In essence, the procedure relies on harnessing the body’s mental and physiological resources to desensitise them to the details of a previously-experienced traumatic event.
At The Dawn, EMDR therapy consists of eight sessions, each 90 minutes long. Our trained EMDR therapist will explain the procedure and then begin a standard psychological evaluation, asking the client to talk about their thoughts and feelings in relation to the traumatic incident. The treatment will then explore, within the safe environment of a therapy session, how that incident affects the client’s current mental state.
With these traumatic memories in mind, the main EMDR procedure is ready to begin. The client is seated in front of a therapist whose side-to-side finger movements encourage repeated bilateral eye movement. In combination with the fast side-to-side eye movement and the reassuring environment of the therapy room, the traumatic thoughts begin to move to the edge of consciousness. Newer and healthier mental associations are then formed in place of the previous cognitive patterns.
Over time and continued EMDR trauma therapy, these more positive mental pathways can supplant the most harmful negative memories. The client is then able to use their own inner resources to move forward, away from the painful thoughts that had disrupted their lives, and towards a freer, happier self-identity.
Clients report a greater sense of personal control and empowerment after completing a full course of EMDR treatments. Other common outcomes include a significant decrease in severity for symptoms of PTSD, along with other long-term mental effects related to traumatic experiences.
Upon repeated exposure to EMDR techniques, the client should be able to adequately soothe themselves when anxiety strikes, without needing to rely on a professional EMDR therapist. Many clients also note a dramatic improvement in their self-esteem following treatment.
Initial research and development of EMDR psychotherapy began in the late 1980s, with the first published paper on the subject appearing in 1989. Since then, adoption within the world of psychology has been swift and widespread. Among the organisations endorsing EMDR treatments are:
The World Health Organisation
A number of studies and meta-analyses have found EMDR psychotherapy to be as effective as other forms of treatment for people suffering from PTSD and other related conditions. The World Health Organisation describes EMDR as “based on the idea that negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours are the result of unprocessed memories.” Francine Shapiro, who originally discovered and developed EMDR therapy for trauma and PTSD, found that it was possible to bring anxiety under control through fast eye movements.
Ms Shapiro found that this method could move traumatic thoughts into the background of the mind, providing an opening for the body’s standard coping mechanisms to begin processing the distress-causing experience. In the three decades since EMDR was introduced to the world of psychotherapy, millions of people have benefited from it. Currently over 100,000 clinicians worldwide offer EMDR to their clients.
At The Dawn, we provide comprehensive care for survivors of traumatic events, including EMDR treatment for trauma and PTSD as well as TRM and TRE. Our fully trained and licenced therapists provide a stable, supportive environment for recovery. The Dawn’s comfortable and peaceful atmosphere, far away from noise and distractions, is ideal for treatment and healing.
With our low staff-to-client ratio, and nursing team on call 24 hours a day, our clients receive personalised attention throughout their stay. If you or somebody you know is experiencing PTSD or other complications from trauma, we are here to help. Contact us for full details regarding eye movement therapy at The Dawn, or any of our other available treatments.