Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an exciting and powerful technique for resolving a wide range of issues and health problems rapidly and permanently. It is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment of choice for post traumatic stress disorder. It is quicker than and just as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy for post traumatic stress. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for trauma for adults, children and adolescents.
Many conditions, particularly mental health and emotional issues, can be due to distressing or traumatic events which the brain hasn’t processed effectively, so we are ‘ambushed’ by negative feelings or distressing symptoms when faced with even subtle reminders of past events in everyday life.
During EMDR the client visually follows hand movements, or is lightly tapped on the hands, to stimulate both the emotional and rational sides of the brain, whilst attending to feelings in a controlled way. This enables us to reprocess traumatic material and events, and replace the negative thoughts and bodily feelings associated with trauma with more positive and accepting thoughts and feelings.
EMDR is primarily a non verbal therapy, so is ideal for people who feel uncomfortable discussing traumatic or intensely personal experiences in detail, or for those whose first language differs from that of the therapist. It is often used with refugees or in the aftermath of disasters.
EMDR is helpful for many issues, such as depression or substance misuse, where there are underlying issues of trauma or precipitating events. It is a powerful treatment, so should only be used by health professionals with particular expertise in psychology and mental health, as part of a wider program of support and therapy. (The training criteria was at one time less rigorous, so you may find some therapists trained in a basic level of EMDR who are not recognised mental health professionals, or who have undertaken short courses in ‘hybrids’ of EMDR, which may not be supported by the same body of research as EMDR itself).
I am qualified to Advanced level in EMDR, which enables me to use EMDR with a wide range of conditions, such as complex trauma (for example, from childhood abuse), phobias, chronic pain, eating disorders and substance misuse, as well as for one off traumas like road traffic accidents.
I am also qualified in Child and Adolescent EMDR (Level 2, 2010) and have used it safely and successfully with children and young people, as well as adults. I am very excited to be able to use EMDR in CAMHS.
People often ask if EMDR is similar to EFT. My personal view is that EFT may work in a similar way by integrating and processing negative thoughts and memories, as the ‘tapping’ and repeating of material probably acts to ‘confuse’ or distract the brain, so material can be processed. I considered training in EFT myself, but after researching and experiencing both treatments, I came to the conclusion that EMDR was more evidence based and powerful, and thus the right intervention for me personally to train in.